SynopsisBlack dust, shrill metallic noises, dark tunnels, muscular bodies – all that is the past. At the end of 2018, extraction of coal throughout Germany came to an end. That same year, the voices of the emerging climate protest movement Fridays for Future grew louder. Against the backdrop of these media and socio-political events, the film ONCE WE WERE PITMEN follows five miners on their tragic, humorous and heartwarming search for a new role in life.
Locke & Langer, the tall one and the short one, are among these last «real pitmen». While Locke clings to his miner's pride, Langer longs for ways to fulfill himself in retirement. Then there's Thomas, who has been living with his mother since being made redundant; his social meeting place will soon disappear. Kiri fled civil war in Sri Lanka in his youth and found a new home in the colliery; the closure of the pit has triggered fundamental questions about his identity which can no longer be ignored. Martina had come to feel unable to be a miner in any case; she took a bold step and decided to live as a woman from now on. The film interweaves elements of observational documentation and precise compositions in symbiotic style, thus gathering a range of stories relating to unique metamorphoses. How are role models influenced by working conditions? How will masculinity be constructed in the future? We find ourselves confronted with these questions in our roles of modern men and filmmakers. From our perspective, the closure of the last remaining German coal mines is emblematic of the end of the industrial age in Western Europe, which has had a lasting and defining impact on our society.