Panorama | Documentaries
Two mining communities on opposite sides of the world with their own rules and conventions, one blasting away rock for copper, the other dredging water and panning for gold; one deep below the earth’s surface, the other above, in the tropical heat; one state-owned and organized, the other independent and illegal. Ben Russell’s Good Luck deliberately reveals the working conditions of miners in Serbia and Suriname through a careful mix of calm observation, focused formalism and ecstatic surrealism. As Russell has sliced his film into two distinct parts located in each of these mines, the contrasts only reveal themselves over time.
It’s all shot (on 16mm film) with an immaculate attention to (surround) sound and breathtaking image—the Steadicam is back with a vengeance, circling a miner jackhammering into rock, lit only by head lamp, or simply following a man, gas can in tow, as he trudges along. These cinematic flourishes are integrated into a socially minded, ethnographic film that puts a face to the machine of capital—at times literally, by way of Warholian black-and-white screen tests, which see the miners staring into the camera and controlling the length of the shots themselves. Russell finds a common ground between these men, workers and humans all, who toil away to improve their family’s circumstances, and all of whom like a good song now and then.