Hot Docs Review: 'The Chimney Swift' Shows Inhumane Labour from a Child's Perspective Directed by Frédéric Schuld

Hot Docs Review: 'The Chimney Swift' Shows Inhumane Labour from a Child's Perspective Directed by Frédéric Schuld
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The Chimney Swift is simultaneously two different tales. The narration is a story gleaned from the actual accounts of adult chimney sweeps in the 19th century, but the stunning animated visuals depict a young boy climbing up a chimney for the first time, embarking on a life of hard labour. Children as young as four were indoctrinated into the world of chimney sweeping for the bourgeoisie. They were small enough to accomplish the job successfully, the narrator explains, intertwining into the story his own journey toward becoming a teacher for other tiny chimney sweeps. Meanwhile, the animation shows a small boy climbing up a dark and gritty chimney, afraid, coughing, but climbing nonetheless. 

Though the narrator's voice seems a bit stiff and slightly unnaturally forced, the fact-based story it tells is compelling. The animation is beguiling — sooty and muted, circumscribed by coal-like pencil, the pictures show us a story of hope in the small chimney swift as he climbs up toward salvation as only a child can imagine it. 

Told in an immersive way, The Chimney Swift is well-worth a watch — you'll definitely learn something new. 

Hot Docs Film Festival has moved online for its 2020 edition. Buy tickets over at the festival's website. (Fabian&Fred)