The steel industry has a huge impact on people and the environment worldwide. Iron ore mines and steelworks pollute land and air, while some former industrial areas are being transformed into landscape parks.
Carajas in Brazil, Duisburg in Germany and Taranto in Italy – three places that couldn’t be more different yet have one thing in common: the steel industry. Each location represents a different phase in the struggle against what are in many cases all-powerful steel companies. In Brazil, our protagonists’ fight is still in its infancy as they vie with a gigantic adversary. Expropriation, deforestation and pollution are just some of the problems faced by farmers in Carajas. And while the steelworks in Germany’s Ruhr region have long since shut down and made way for landscape parks, in Taranto protests against the local steel mill – Europe’s biggest – have been raging for twenty years and yet local residents still suffer from a high mortality rate caused by dioxin emissions. We closely observe the daily lives of our three protagonists under the pervasive influence of the steel industry. Egbert, who works for the Landschaftspark Duisburg; Grazia, a pediatrician in Taranto; and Pixinga, a farmer in Brazil, all devote themselves to their own struggle against the flagrant exploitation of human and natural resources
Production TV Plus for Mani Tese, with the support of Brot für die Welt and Italian Agency for Development Cooperation
2020 Beyond Filmfestival, Germany Innsbruck Nature Film Festival, Austria Ekofilm, Czech Republic BIFED, Turkey
2021 'Impact docs Award' – official selection
Cast and Crew
Director Chiara Sambucchi
Director of Photography Paolo Pisacane, Ralf Klingelhöfer
Editor Simone Veneroso
“The idea of a documentary film for me always arise from a meeting, a personal story, first listened to and observed, then narrated in an intimate way, remaining as close as possible to the protagonist, participating with an open heart to his concerns, his dreams and his hopes, in short, looking at the world with his eyes.
The biggest challenge in “Spirits I’ve called” for me was to find a film language and a narration capable of combining three personal stories, with the global story of the steel industry and its distortions. Therefore, on the one hand, to describe the reckless and violent exploitation of resources and the sinister indifference for the pain of others, in the name of profit. But also to combine it with the most human of the stories, the real life of three people united by a chance: living in key places for the interests of large world steel groups.
The result was a story far from the chronicle of facts, numbers and statistics, in which the gaze of Grazia, Egbert and Pixilinga is the red thread that guides us from one place to another and through their emotional path of anger, frustration and hope. More than explaining, our protagonists show us, sometimes even through silences and subjective, life in the places of the steel industry. “Spirits I’ve called” is a film about awareness, about the indestructible will to write a new course for their own world and about the sometimes exhausting struggle which our three heroes are willing to deal with, in order to succeed. It is the positive and hopeful response to an Amazonian forest spoiled by the chasm of the Serra Norte iron mine, an open wound with its dark red color, painful to observe in the dense green of the rainforest. It is the reaction to decades spent in Taranto breathing dioxin and burying mothers, fathers, friends and more and more often children, victims of cancer. It is the awakening after decades of tremendous pollution in the Ruhr basin, which finally regains possession of itself.
The role of nature and the contemplation of its beauty are crucial in the film: when, with the blast furnaces finally turned off, nature takes back its ancient spaces long lost, but also where the chimneys degrade it, or when it is threatened by the strip mine and the mining industry. Because this is what the gaze of our protagonists sends us back and reminds us even in the most tragic moments of their story.
During the editing phase, I often wondered if my protagonists admire nature or it is nature that observes them. The truth probably lies in a continuous mutual observation, a perpetual game of references and cornerstone of the dramatic development of “Spirits I’ve called”: what at the beginning of the film is a vague intuition, during the course of the documentary becomes a certainty. The need to radically change the course of the steel chain. Immediately. Without compromises. On a global scale”.