Coal India

  • Felix Röben, Ajay Koli
  • Germany
  • 2015
  • 47 min
  • World Premiere
  • IDFA Competition for Student Documentary
This contemplation of the cyclical movements of intense physical labor was filmed in the coalfields near Dhanbad, India. The contrast could hardly be greater between the sundrenched Bollywood-style company promotional film that opens this documentary and the gray veil that conceals the monotonous manual labor in the Kusunda coalfields. The cheerful musical song from the promotional film makes way for a sonorous and melancholy a cappella as we are introduced to life at two main locations: Loader Area 6, where men carry chunks of coal in baskets on their heads; and Kusunda Area, where children climb like pirates onto trucks to claim their booty of rubble. A considerable portion of the film takes place at night, lit by the headlights of a seemingly endless line of passing trucks, and by the many small raw-coal fires. It’s a film with a keen eye for a form of strenuous work that has all but vanished from view in our technologized century. The largely observational shots are occasionally interrupted by a short monologue, but no one is complaining; there is work, so there is food. An elderly lady recalls that this brown-black desert was once green and that tigers and spirits lived here.


  • 47 min
  • color
  • DCP
  • Spoken languages: Hindi
  • Subtitles in: English
Felix Röben, Ajay Koli
Felix Röben for Hochschule OWL
Ajay Koli
Felix Röben
Screening copy
Felix Röben

IDFA history

World Premiere
IDFA Competition for Student Documentary

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IDFA history

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