My name is Sasha Friedlander. I have just finished my first of two years in the graduate program for Social Documentary Film Making at the School of Visual Arts in New York. I will be shooting my thesis film on location in Java, Indonesia where I plan to make a documentary on the sulfur miners, who work under great duress extracting sulfur from one of the most beautiful volcanoes in the world.
Having lived in Indonesia for two years already, I am fluent in the language, which will allow me to live and interact with the miners and their families without the need for interpreters, providing greater access to the miners' stories. The health and safety issues associated with their work are monumental. With no protection, they are exposed daily to noxious sulfur dioxide fumes. My hope is that through the making of this film, their voices will be heard far beyond their remote village, bringing awareness to their struggles, and the possibility of some improvement to their working conditions and lives.
The stunning beauty of this volcanic terrain, coupled with the life threatening and difficult labor these miners endure, have lead me to entitle the film "Where Heaven Meets Hell: the Sulfur Miners of Kawah Ijen".
My goal is to raise $6000 dollars by June 22nd. I’ll have all the usual expenses of traveling and film making, but living very simply in the village with the miners themselves. In addition, one of my classmates, Bao Nguyen (http://vimeo.com/8011453) will join me as a cinematographer. I'll be leaving on July 7th and returning on September 1st and I so appreciate Kickstarter for offering me my first experience of online fundraising. Many thanks for taking the time to consider my proposal.
The simple act of striking a match, adding a generous spoonful of sugar to a morning cup of coffee, riding a bike or getting into a car, is everyday fare in much of the world. But if asked if sulfur mining had any bearing on their lives, few citizens of the world would know how integral it is.
Kawah Ijen is an active 8530 feet tall volcano in East Java, Indonesia. Inside the crater of the volcano lies the largest lake of sulfuric acid in the world (650 ft deep). Exquisitely beautiful visually, it is the site of a gruelingly labor-intensive sulfur mining operation. Here 200 miners collect and carry huge loads of pure sulfur as they trek up along a rocky 4 km path out of the crater, amidst clouds of noxious sulfur dioxide gas. They then climb down to the village at the base of the volcano unload, only to repeat the round trip journey again before the day ends. The miners will then sell the sulfur to the government for a small fee, equivalent to about five dollars a day. The government exports the sulfur, which is then used for bleaching sugar, producing fertilizers, black gunpowder, matches, insecticides, and fungicides and for vulcanizing rubber.
The miner’s physical pain can be excruciating, accidents are common, and exposure to the sulfur dioxide gases leads to chronic lung diseases. Because they are making more money than they would be making if they were to stay in their villages and farm, they continue mining in hopes of building financial security for their families, and ensuring that their sons will not become miners at Kawah Ijen. Sadly, the average sulfur miner at Kawah Ijen only lives till the age of 40, usually forcing their sons into their jobs, and thus creating a cyclical pattern that passes from one generation to the next.
This film will look at the question of economics and poverty in the third world nation of Indonesia, by examining the lives of several sulfur miners and their families. Yet the pivotal issue, which this film will address, is the lack of safety precautions, inadequate medical care and the absence of hope that exists for these people. By giving them a voice, I hope to bring their story to a broader audience, which can perhaps lend them some real assistance.
If you are interested, please feel free to check out my most recent films: http://www.vimeo.com/user3133803
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