Director Jesse Kreitzer’s short historical drama transports audiences back to the coal-mining culture of early 1900s, as a family find themselves both reliant upon yet destroyed by the land that they work upon.
A father continues his work in an accursed mine, despite the toll it takes on his family and blinding his youngest son. But his dogged pursuit of livelihood comes at a cost.
The most distinctive feature of the film upon first glance is the rich, burnished cinematography, which beautifully captures the grit and texture of this bygone world.
Shot in 35mm, each frame of “Black Canaries” has the weight of an old daguerrotype, nearly sumptuous with expression and time. Even the costumes have the feel of the old-fashioned — they are worn, weathered and beaten down as the characters that wear them.
Nearly dialogue-free, the film focuses on the flickers of expression and thought that dart across each character’s face. The hypnotic pacing and evocative score create a sense of a hermetically sealed world — a feeling and atmosphere very true to these coal miners’ experience.
Based on the director’s extensive research into his own heritage, “Black Canaries” is a quietly meditative work on love, loyalty, the passing of time and the relationship between people and their environment — and an honor and testament to a milieu that has all but vanished, but deserves remembrance for its struggle and humble valor.