The Charcoal People (Os Carvoeiros)

Director: Nigel Noble
Screenwriters: José Padilha

Institute History

  • 2000 Sundance Film Festival


“You say you love the earth, you say you are concerned with the earth. This is not true. I do not see this. Your descendants are many, but they have turned their face from the truth of Creation.”
-Xavante Indian Chief Serebur

Rarely have we seen a more provocative depiction of social and environmental desecration; seldom have humanity’s failures been registered with such heartbreaking consequence. A film of consummate beauty and intensity, The Charcoal People explores the lives of the sixty thousand laborers employed in cutting down forests and producing charcoal for the multinational pig-iron industry. Having decimated enormous swathes of the Atlantic Forest and savannas of central Brazil (an area the size of France), the charcoal industry has had an equally devastating impact on the lives and life expectancy of its workers. Poor, illiterate, isolated, and indebted, the itinerant laborers engage in backbreaking toil which also has calamitous social and health ramifications.
Inspired by Marcos Prado’s award-winning photographs and featuring a unique collaboration between filmmaker Jose Padilha and Academy Award-winning director Nigel Noble, The Charcoal People urges a strident social and ecological position without compromising its artistry or the dignity of its subjects. Joco Nabuco’s soulful orchestrations, Flavio Zangrandi’s luminous visuals, and Ann Collins’ poignant editing amplify the emotional weight of witnessing this medieval tableau: an earth pillaged by a degraded and obsolete commerce, a people enslaved by politics and greed, their children irradiated by the toxic glow of smoldering charcoal furnaces.
-Rebecca Yeldham

Screening Details


As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]