The Devil's Miner

2006

The Devil's Miner

Critics Consensus

A visually arresting documentary that offers a powerful and unforgettable look into the silver mining industry and child labor.

93%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 27

85%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 661
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Movie Info

"The Devil's Miner" follows two brothers, 14-year-old Basilio and his 12-year-old brother Bernardino, who live in poverty with their mother in the mountains of Bolivia. They work long shifts in the Cerro Rico silver mines, braving deadly conditions to earn enough money to attend school. Daily the brothers go into the underground mining tunnels and tempt fate in order to gain a better life. Through the children's eyes, we encounter the sixteenth century mine, where devout Catholics sever their ties with God each time they enter the shafts, because of the ancient belief that the devil, as represented in the hundreds of statues constructed in the tunnels, determines the fate of all who work there. Raised without a father, the boys assume many adult responsibilities and must work to afford the clothing and supplies vital to their education. Basilio believes only the mountain devil's generosity will allow them to earn enough money to continue the new school year. Without an education, the brothers have no chance to escape their destiny in the silver mines.

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Critic Reviews for The Devil's Miner

All Critics (27) | Top Critics (11) | Fresh (25) | Rotten (2)

Audience Reviews for The Devil's Miner

  • Oct 22, 2009
    <div style="width:280px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/dm-1-12464336"><img src="http://content6.flixster.com/photo/12/46/43/12464336_ori.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"></a></div></div> <div style="width:280px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/dm-15-12464342"><img src="http://content8.flixster.com/photo/12/46/43/12464342_ori.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"></a> </div></div> <div style="width:280px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/dm-3-12464347"><img src="http://content9.flixster.com/photo/12/46/43/12464347_ori.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"></a> </div></div> <div style="width:280px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/dm-2-12464343"><img src="http://content9.flixster.com/photo/12/46/43/12464343_ori.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"></a> </div></div> <div style="width:280px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/dm-4-12464350"><img src="http://content8.flixster.com/photo/12/46/43/12464350_ori.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"><I>The Devil's Miner</I></a> </div></div> <I>The Devil's Miner</I> (2004) Directed and Produced by Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani. <I>The Devil's Miner</I> is about Basilio Vargas, a bright, ambitious boy who is curious about the world and sees the value of an education, but is trapped in a dangerous and deplorable third world quagmire. Fatherless, Basilio must work in the notorious Serra Rico silver mines of Bolivia to finance an existence for himself. Over 8 million people have died in the mines since they were established 450 years ago. That comes out to almost eighteen thousand deaths a year. The mines are mostly depleted of minerals, long abandoned by the companies that once ran them. They are now owned and operated by a local workers cooperative. The miners lack the resources to excavate safely using modern equipment. Their work environment holds a plethora of fatal hazards. The miners know with certainty that they will be dead by age 40 from silicosis, if they are not killed in gruesome accidents first. Despite this, many have chosen to sacrifice themselves in order to support their families, having no other viable options in the ruined local economy. Basilio chews coca to stay awake during the lengthy 12 to 16 hour shifts. Working many hundreds of feet underground he must employ constant vigilance to avoid a multitude of dangers such as cave-ins, untimely explosions, falls, becoming lost and many other appalling work related hazards. He goes to school as much as possible, where he has to conceal the nature of his employment to avoid social rejection. He contributes what wages he can to assist his mother and siblings. The mines are so inconceivably primitive and dangerous that it becomes a symptom of human nature that even an ordinarily rational person is compelled to total fatalism. The miners adhere to the perceived need to make a variety of material offerings and ritual sacrifices to the Devil which they believe inhabits the mines and controls their destinies. The devil persona it turns out, is one created by the Spanish Crown and perpetuated by foreign mining companies to trick the workers into accepting terrible conditions. They were forced to spend six months at a stretch underground working ever harder in twenty hour shifts with only four hours of rest in between, for an insultingly low wage. Although the current miners understand the origins of the devil myth and the mining companies are now long gone, the hopelessness and sheer horror of their situation ensures their continued belief in the threatening entity. Basilio's working conditions, home life on the mining site, and his community life are objectively documented. The film takes no position, but instead presents the awful facts which speak for themselves. The story is subtitled and told in via Basilio's own recorded voice as his compiled responses comprise a striking monologue describing his experiences. There is extensive, spectacular footage of the bowels of the mines and stark, local geography which paint a depressing and utterly bleak portrait of despair and hopelessness. The picture that is presented of the local dilemma is so dire as to make anyone feel fortunate to lead a monotonous, humdrum, workaday existence in the first world. This is a first rate documentary. It is one entry in a multitude of recent, compelling films that comprise a rebirth of the genre, all of which spur deep thought, reveal disturbing facts, and take no position in order to let the viewer make up his or her own mind.
    Pamela D Super Reviewer
  • Mar 26, 2006
    [font=Century Gothic]"The Devil's Miner" is a documentary about Basilio, a 14-year old mine worker in the silver mines in Bolivia, who has been working there for the last four years while his 12-year old brother assists him. Sometimes he works 24 hour shifts, gnawing on coca leaves to give him energy to stay awake. Life expectancy is 35-40 years for the average miner because of silicosis which is due to inhaled dust particles. Conditions in the mines are bad anyway because of risky explosions and poisonous gas. If his father had not died some years before, he would not have to work in the mines.(The mines were started in colonial times by the Spanish who exploited the Indio population as slaves. You can see how little things have changed over the years.)[/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]"The Devil's Miner" is a heartbreaking documentary that is told entirely from the point of view of Basilio, his family, other workers and a local priest. I might have had concerns about using a child to talk about a miner's life as a cheap ploy to get sympathy but it works as a look into a possible future, not only for him but for all of the other miners. Basilio goes to school and wants to become a teacher. He sees the mines as a temporary situation. Let's hope so.[/font]
    Walter M Super Reviewer

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