Filled to the brim with damning facts and figures, and fueled by equal measures of mournful despair and moral outrage, “The Charcoal People” is a well-intentioned tract that’s much too attractive for its own good. Pic may be greeted with open arms at various specialty film fests, but after that, chalk up “Charcoal” as global TV fare.
Brit documentarian Nigel Noble (“Voices of Sarafina”) and Brazilian producer Jose Padilha clearly have their hearts in the right place as they bemoan the cutting down of trees in the savannas of Brazil and Amazon rain forest to provide raw materials for international pig iron and steel industries. When they aren’t listing distressing statistics about the ecological upheaval, filmmakers focus on the hard work and meager prospects of itinerant, unskilled workers who cut the trees, build the kilns and burn the wood into charcoal. But the repetitiveness of their interviews and the self-conscious lyricism of their imagery — a ramshackle hovel here, an artfully positioned abandoned shoe there — undercut their best efforts. It comes as no surprise that pic was inspired by an award-winning photography exhibit and has spun off a glossy photo book.