Review: ‘Fireflies in the Abyss’

Hot Docs 2016

2 mins read

Fireflies in the Abyss
(Netherlands/Canada/UK/India, 88 min.)
Dir. Chandrasekhar Reddy
Programme: World Showcase (North American Premiere)


A beacon of light glimmers in the darkness of Chandrasekhar Reddy’s compelling doc Fireflies in the Abyss. The film offers an optimistic note for a young 11-year-old boy named Suraj who lives in the Jaintia Hills of North East India. Suraj aspires to escape the dark coalmines that engulf his family members and neighbours in gruelling physical labour that yields little rewards. Fireflies in the Abyss stresses the value of an education and the need to give the children of today the necessary tools—not pickaxes and shovels—with which they may create a better tomorrow.

Reddy’s sparse and unpretentious approach captures the harshness of the mining community and the equally barren opportunities that grow within it. As the camera crawls into the mines with workers who risk their lives, Fireflies in the Abyss offers a descent into a hell that no child should anticipate. The doc also allows a range of longstanding community members to speak about their experiences with the mine, while young vagrant workers discuss how their jobs as miners offer a quick cash grab for anyone who can survive the tough work. The scenario in the film is much like that in Canada’s oil sands where a perpetual state of transience emerges when people come and go from the community, and take riches with them while those who remain stay with little.

Reddy, however, shows that the subjects are both victims of circumstance and products of their own complacency as young Suraj shows the strongest desire to escape. The film is dark and sobering, but ultimately hopeful for future generations.

Fireflies in the Abyss screens:
-Friday, Apr. 29 at Cineplex Scotiabank at 9:00 PM
-Saturday, Apr. 30 at Cineplex Scotiabank at 4:30 PM

Please visit the POV Hot Docs hub for more coverage on this year’s festival.

Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit for more information.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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