Santa Cruz Good Times

Oct 10th
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Mining Hope

sasha1Documentary filmmaker and Santa Cruz native Sasha Friedlander shares both the beauty and struggle of life in the Indonesian sulfur mines

Santa Cruz native Sasha Friedlander’s debut feature-length film, Where Heaven Meets Hell, tells the true story of four sulfur miners who, despite working in hellish conditions—500 miners collect and haul loads of up to 200 pounds of pure sulfur up and down a volcano several times each day—are still as hopeful and cheerful as any other native of Indonesia. In anticipation of Saturday’s screening at The Rio Theatre, we sat down with Friedlander to discuss the making of the documentary, which took home the Grand Jury Prize for best feature documentary film and Outstanding Cinematography Award at the 2012 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, and what’s next for the up-and-coming filmmaker. 

Good Times: How did you end up in Indonesia in the first place? 

Sasha Friedlander: My parents started bringing me to Indonesia when I was 7 and we all really took to the culture and the people and kept going back. I studied dance there for many years and my parents studied other art forms. I studied Indonesian in undergraduate and then went back to live there after I finished school to try and see what it would be like to live in Indonesia for some time. 

What was your goal in making this documentary? 

When I went to [Kawah] Ijen [volcano] for the first time, I was so blown away that there were working conditions that still existed in the world today like this. It’s actually a real ancient form of mining—it doesn’t really exist anywhere else in the world. No one does work like this anymore. To see that and to know the world doesn’t know about this or what’s going on, I felt like, being someone who knows how to work a camera and tell a story, it was sort of my obligation to help get this out into the world. sashathree

Where did the inspiration for the title, Where Heaven Meets Hell, come from? 

I was talking to the miners and they were fascinating. I was really blown away by the dignity they had in the way they held themselves, the pride they had, and the work that they did—being able to support their families even though they were breaking their bodies. So when I started formulating the film and writing the treatments, the name “Where Heaven Meets Hell” came to me because when you’re up there you feel like you’re in heaven, but in contrast what they’re doing is like hell. 

Did growing up in Santa Cruz have an influence on you and your worldviews? 

I don’t know if growing up in Santa Cruz had an influence on my worldviews, but I think how my parents raised me did. My parents always taught me that if there is something you could do to help, then do it. Make all the efforts that you can possibly muster to make it happen. 

I went to this mine for the first time and saw the working conditions and thought, “I make documentary films. This is what I love to do. I could make a film that could possibly make a difference for their lives and expose what’s going on here, and maybe the film could help lead to some sort of change—even if it’s just a little.” 


If you could describe this film in one word, what would it be? 

Hope. I feel like people see the trailer or read what the film is about and say, “I don’t know if I can handle these miners’ stories because it’s so depressing.” But I think when people do actually see the film, what they will walk away with is a sense of hope. 

Any future projects or similar films in the works? In the states or overseas? 

I’m doing research on a new project right now that I can’t talk about, but I definitely will make more films in Indonesia. There are some ideas, [but] nothing set in.

‘Where Heaven Meets Hell’ screens at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19 at The Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $10, and available at the door. 423-8209. Photos 1 & 3: Sylvia Krzysztofek, Photo 2: Courtesy of 'Where Heaven Meets Hell.'

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Mercury Direct in Libra, Columbus Day, Libra New Moon

Mercury completes its retrograde Friday, poised stationary direct Friday evening at zero degrees Libra. Mercury begins its journey through Libra once again, completing its retrograde shadow Oct. 12. Things should be a bit less complicated by then. Daily life works better, plans move forward, large purchases can be made, and communication eases. Everything on hold during the retrograde is slowly released. Since we eliminated all thoughts and ideas no longer needed (the purpose of Mercury’s retrograde) during the retrograde, we can now gather new information—until the next retrograde occurs on Jan. 5, 2016 (1.3 degrees Aquarius), retrograding back to 15 degrees Capricorn on Jan. 25. It’s good to know beforehand when Mercury will retrograde next—Jan. 5, the day before Epiphany. On Monday is Columbus Day, when the sailor from Genoa arrived in the new lands (Americas), Oct. 12, 1492. This discovery by Columbus was the first encounter of Europeans with Native Americans. Other names for this day are “Discovery Day, Day of the Americas, Cultural Diversity Day, Indigenous People’s Day, and Dia de la Raza.” Italian communities especially celebrate this day. Oct. 12 is also Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Monday is also the (19 degrees) Libra new moon festival. Libra’s keynote while building the personality is, “Let choice be made.” Libra is the sign of making life choices. Often under great tension of opposing forces seeking harmony and balance. There is a battle between our lower (personality) and higher selves (soul). We are tested and called to cultivate right judgment and love. When we align with the will-to-good, right choice, then right judgment and love/wisdom come forth. Our tasks in Libra. 


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