The Devil's Miner

"Good"

The Devil's Miner Review


A film based on child labor issues is bound to reach for the heart and engender political gusto. Gone are the days when children were produced for the sole reason of earning bread because we've thankfully worked towards improving society to encourage parents to allow children to play. As a result, there has been an increase in documentaries that showcase the plight of youth still breathing in dust or raised to prostitution.

So into this realm comes The Devil's Miner, a portrait of two young brothers that work in the excruciating environment of silver mines in Bolivia. Their father died when the oldest was just two years of age, so 14-year-old Basilio takes on responsibility early, beginning work at the age of 10. You flounder about their small stone home, watch Basilio walk enormous strides to both work and the half day of school he can get to, and witness the family struggle together with honor, support, and love. It's moving, especially with such mature commentary on life coming out of these young mouths, and barely a word of self-pity crosses any of these impoverished lips.

But the trouble is that most of the 82 minutes of the film is spent on watching Basilio in the mines, giving us little exterior context in terms of Bolivian life. It is mentioned that his family used to live in the city and were merchants, and with the death of his father, had to move to mine work, but that is the extent to which any class or employment structure is presented. There is no connection made between the labor at the mines and who owns them, who actually pays the wages. The only fact alluded to is that compensation varies based on mineral output.

The school setup is another missed opportunity. Here is an educational facility with about 40 students who come from working class backgrounds and probably walk to this building complex in the middle of nowhere as Basilio does, and yet they are forced to spend a week's worth of wages on a uniform they are forced to wear. Basilio states that he would be looked down upon by peers if he mentions working in the mines, which is the closest we get to an environmental analysis of learning. Is the school government-sponsored? Does the staff know the families of these children? Time is spent interviewing the priest in the local city church, but no teacher or other faculty member gets to comment on the young charges.

Much time is spent on religious attachments, for instance the "Tio" god-like myth kept alive in the mines that is prayed to for assistance in extracting more silver. More time is wasted in hearing about the television programs Basilio's family enjoys when the battery works. Had some of this focus been used on providing a broader scope of people in Basilio's situation, perhaps The Devil's Miner would have had a more powerful political impact on those ignorant of this unfortunate situation.

The lack of environmental knowledge does not take away from the truly devastating circumstances that Basilio and his brother Bernardino must endure. The brothers are certainly engaging as they speak maturely, wisely, and hopefully about their dreams. Watching them crawl through the claustrophobic, maze-like mines in natural verite style provokes genuine concern for their plight and a sense of overwhelming doom. However, The Devil's Miner misses some of its possible good intentions by not providing a larger picture of such a dire situation.

Notable DVD extras include a short about the mine, one year later, and other humanitarian featuretes.



The Devil's Miner

Facts and Figures

Run time: 82 mins

In Theaters: Friday 22nd April 2005

Distributed by: First Run Features

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Fresh: 24 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Kief Davidson, Richarrd Ladkani

Producer: Kief Davidson, Richarrd Ladkani

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