Canaries in a Coalmine is a one hour documentary that weaves together the touching stories of a diverse group of European and Mexican immigrants, as the forces of history bring their unique worldviews into contact with early twentieth century America.
Inspired by Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoonriver Anthology, it is a journey into the life and times of Dawson in the early decades of the twentieth century, as retold by some of the town’s Greek, Italian, and Mexican inhabitants. Speaking from a world beyond our own, they tell us about the sorts of things one might expect: life in the mother country, life after the loss of their loved ones, observations about American culture, and petty complaints like the treatment of their graves since Dawson was torn down. Speaking without reason to lie or fear the consequences, they construct a picture of life in their town that is honest and frank, sometimes entertaining and not always flattering.
The film combines a “composed cinema verité” approach with a classic documentary style to provide intimate portraits of the lives of these personalities. By weaving artistic creativity together with archival footage, contemporary news clips, vintage photos and personal diaries, the film’s protagonists present their stories in a sensitive yet candid manner. With honesty, irony and humor, they bring to light the personal challenges they faced as immigrants in a foreign land seeking to create a better life for themselves and their families. The viewer is consistently challenged to consider how their stories and their journeys are still relevant to us today. Authenticity and integrity in displaying the nature of life in Dawson will be paramount. Everything will be presented with the utmost attention to detail.