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The Devil's Miner (2005)

7.5
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Reviews: 13 user | 18 critic | 12 from Metacritic.com

'The Devil's Miner' tells the story of 14-year-old Basilio who worships the devil for protection while working in a Bolivian silver mine to support his family.

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'The Devil's Miner' tells the story of 14-year-old Basilio who worships the devil for protection while working in a Bolivian silver mine to support his family.

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Plot Keywords:

miner | mine | priest | poverty | school | See more »

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The story of a child's survival

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Documentary

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Release Date:

22 April 2005 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Basilio und der Berg des Teufels  »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$4,393 (USA) (17 March 2006)

Gross:

$13,677 (USA) (19 May 2006)
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Soundtracks

Bailando Bailando
Composed By Horacio Salinas
Performed by Inti-Illimani
Publisher: Coda, Spain
Courtesy of Inti Illimani Inc. and Green Linnet Records ©2004
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There But for the Grace of God Go We
22 December 2007 | by (San Francisco, California) – See all my reviews

This is an excellently made documentary. The visual quality of the film has a fresh, live look. The beauty of Bolivia is contrasted with a horrifying story being told about the silver mines and miners of the Cerro Rico Mountain in Bolivia, a mountain called, "The Mountain that Eats Men." It is a film about one of the real hells that exists on our planet -- the plight of miners. There are over 5,000 Indios working at one of the 500 miner owned cooperatives on Cerro Rico, which has been mined for over 450 years. It is estimated that over 8 million have died in the mines. Most of the miners die in their forties from silicosis, a debilitating lung disease contracted from inhaling too much dust; others die from explosions, cave-ins and falling rocks.

Each mine has its own evil god called a "Tio" (a corruption of the word "Dio") a devil god that must be respected to avoid an early death, and to hopefully help them find more silver. As explained by the miners, the Tio was created by the so-called 'Christian' Conquistadores to quite literally put 'the fear of the devil" into them. It worked. They still worship and give reverence to the Tios.

The miners know they will not live very long because of silicosis. One shot shows their graveyard. They know they are sacrificing themselves for their families; they feel proud to be miners, so that they can help their families, and Bolivia! Contrast this with so many young people here in America who gladly sacrifice their families for their own self serving pleasure, and you get an awakening about how mature and heroic the narrator of the film, the 14 year old miner Basilio is.

He narrates the movie. You can't help but get really drawn into the film. It's mostly the story of Basilio, his brother Bernardo and their mother. There are many touching scenes with Basilio interacting with others. He talks to miners about Tio, and to Bernardo about their dreams of leaving the mines. He wants to be a teacher, and Bernardo wants to be a civil engineer.

However, in order to make more money, he goes to work at a different and more dangerous mine, where the boss sees him as his pick to grow up to be a drilling master. He's actually condemning him to death, since the person who does the pneumatic drilling inhales the most dust and will surely die from silicosis. Condemned in die in blinding dust, dreams of living destroyed.

As noted by others above, fortunately, Basilo and his brother were rescued from the mines by the filmmakers, and are now able to live full time normal lives away from the mines.

Part of the excellence of the film is that it is in no way judgmental about its subject: it does not have a voice over narration telling us anything, nor any didactic juxtapositioning of images nor Michael Moore trying to get into the offices of presidents of American silver import companies, but rather lets the actual natives of the city of Potosi tell their own story. It does not place blame, but leaves that to us as viewers.

This is the way documentaries should be made, practically as tightly edited 'slice of life'. It's also the kind of film we need to see to remind us, that while we sit here in comfort at our computers, we are living off the blood, sweat and toil of the world's masses; standing on the backs of the poor, the exploited and the dead. Check out the Internet for fact articles on miner's lung diseases. You'll be shocked at how many are dying not just in Bolivia or the United States, but also in China.

Good documentaries like this one let the story speak for itself. I give it an 8.


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DEVIL'S MINER gets 3 USA screenings @ the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival SONNYK_USA
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