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The Devil's Miner (Unrated)

Release Date: March 17th, 2006 (Cinema Village) by First Run Features.
Directed by Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani.
In Spanish with subtitles.

BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about 14 year-old Basilio and his 12 year-old brother Bernandino who work at a silver mine in Bolivia.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Like in the recent documentary Workingmanís Death , The Devilís Miner captures the brutal nature of working in a dangerous environment. The main focus is on the experiences of Basilio and Bernandino, who spend many of their afternoon hours working inside a silver mine for only $4 a day. As the camera follows them into the mine, thereís no denying that this environment is no place for a child to be in, even with a supervisor present. The boysí mother admits that she trusts his co-workers and supervisor, but what about trusting the safety of mine itself? Accidents happen beyond oneís control and thereís always the threat of silicosis from dust building up in the lungs. Interestingly, the miners believe that the Devil controls their fate, so they offer sacrifices and gifts to it through its statue which every mine must have. When the boys arenít at the mine, they spend time in school because, without a proper education, they wonít be able to find better jobs in the future. Some of the scenery outside of the mine looks very beautiful, such as when the boys sit at the top of the mountain with the clouds barely over their heads. Many scenes inside the mine seem redundant and unsurprisingóalthough, admittedly, itís certainly bold and risky for the directors to bring their cameras so deep into the mine. One scene feels like from a Indiana Jones movie where the boys count distant explosions that get closer, so they run as fast as they can out of the mine. It would have been much more engaging if The Devilís Miner were to follow other young miners to get a broader sense of child labor in Bolivia or to simply include more interviews with Basilio and Bernandino. Without getting to know them more personally, itís easy to forget them by the time the film is over.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Unfortunately, directors Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani miss out on an opportunity to fully explore sensitive topics such mine safety, child labor, and even religion. Unlike in Workingmanís Death where the images speak for themselves, The Devilís Miner demands more words and less images given its 82-minute focus on one particular workplace. Itís not clear what actually drives Basilio and Bernandino to work in the mine rather than other places that donít require an education. They do want a better life, yet they seem somewhat happy thereóbut why? Interviews with sociologists or even child psychologists might have been insightful, but just listening to the boys go on and on about experiences simply lacks intellectual depth.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Not enough insight into the life of the young miners.


IN A NUTSHELL: A focused and occasionally fascinating documentary! However, without much insight and analysis, it leaves you feeling empty.


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