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The devil’s miner

the devils minor - Basilio

a documentary

Director: Richard Ladkani, Kief Davidson
Running time: 82 minutes
Country: Germany/US
Year: 2005 More information: www.thedevilsminer.com
Play the video trailer of The Devil’s Miner : The Devils Miner

Awards for The devil's miner
Devils miner film-foto

t’s believed that eight million workers have perished in the mines of Cerro Rico, Bolivia, since it opened in the 16th century. The miners are mostly of American Indian origin. Above ground, they are pious Catholics, but down in the mine, other rules apply. Down there, there is another God at work, or rather the devil. Each day the miners sever their ties with God upon entering the mountain, according to an ancient belief that the devil determines the fate of all who work within the mines. It is to the devil that they tender their prayers and offerings. Only the devil can decide whether a rich vein of silver is found, and that’s why the corridors are full of mysterious images to honor the devil. Of course a story about Bolivian miners is also a social story. That story is told from the perspective of a young Bolivian boy.

asilio Vargas lives on a mountain on top of the world. The loss of his father meant the early onset of adulthood and he works punishing 12 hour shifts with his brother deep in the shafts of the silver mines, just to put food on the table. Sometimes it’s hard to be a man and it’s even harder when you’re still a child – Basilio is 14 and his brother Bernardino only 12. On the surface, Basilio is a normal teenager. He looks after his siblings, goes to school and enjoys cartoons and football. Like the rest of the mountain community, the Vargas family are devout catholics. But once over the threshold of the mines, God’s reign holds no sway and they put their trust in Tio, a maleficient devil with horns, the false god of the underworld, created by Spanish conquistadors as a means of keeping the native labourers under control.
Every foot deeper underground takes them one step closer to hell. Daily exposure to the stifling heat and choking dust only reaffirms that belief. Despite the best efforts of the local priest, old superstitions die hard and there are hundreds of statues of the satanic Tio throughout the mines. The miners worship him as their protector, the only one with the power to save them from explosions, cave-ins and a lung condition that makes asbestosis sound like a picnic in Central Park. Regardless of the hardships and the unlikelihood of making it into middle-age, the Vargas family is cheerful. There’s the annual festival to look forward to and if Basilio can only save enough money to pay for it, an education could be his escape route into a healthier life for them all. It’s the South American dream.

or a documentary about devil-worshipping child miners, this is remarkably uplifting. Basilio might have an incredibly tough life but his dignity is never compromised and he never becomes a object of pity, only of respect. There’s no Bob Geldof talking about how dreadful it all is and demanding that these children be saved. For better or worse, they’re trying to save themselves. This is a beautiful film, full of courage, determination and optimism. It should be compulsory viewing for everyone who’s not going to get what they want this Christmas.


parvez 16-12-2005, 02:18

there has been a lot of outcry about asbestos victims in australia. recently, the company ‘james hardie’, responsible for causing asbestosis to many of its employees and others, had to shell out an enormous amount of money as compensation. it’s great to see these people were united and were able to realise their rightful demand for compensation. but what about these miners? who will speak for them? what can they possibly do other than praying to this devil tio who would take unfair credit in helping(?) to find the miners a vein of silver but in return for their prayers, only give them sudden or untimely death with most horrible lung disease that makes even asbestosis sound like “a picnic in the central park”?!! this dreadful devil god has nothing to offer but pain and sufferings. to hell with tio! :furious_tb:

Gertie 17-12-2005, 00:40

The conditions in the mines are terrible. I’ve seen it with my own eyes in 2004, when we visited the mines of Cerro Rico in Potosi during our trip to South-America.
And the saddest thing is: those miners don’t have a choice … working in the mines often is the only way of ‘making a living for their family’ ….. which of course is very contradictory, because the miners die young …… :sad_tb:

Webmaster 17-12-2005, 22:24

I have been in those mines in 2004, and I can tell you, everyday I encourage my daughter to get a good education in order to get a good job to prevent her from such circumstances as Basilio Vargas is faced with. I will certainly go Gertie to this movie, and lets take Parves with us, or not? :yay_wp:

Gertie 18-12-2005, 00:09

Yeah, let’s do that ….. good idea! :yay_wp:

parvez 18-12-2005, 00:38

i’m genuinely honored. i wish i had wings now! so that i could fly to you and accompany you to the movie. mr. marcel and gertie…thank you very much indeed.


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  • "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It's the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead."
    ~ Albert Einstein (1930)."
  • "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
    ~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet."

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