Barely four years after the cave-in that trapped 33 men in the dilapidated 100-plus-year-old San José copper mine, a frightening pit in the middle of Chile’s Atacama Desert, the movie version is nearly ready to hit the big screens with The 33, starring Antonio Banderas.
Back in 2010, the Copiapó mining accident captured the world’s attention and the glue that cemented newly elected President Sebastián Piñera’s legacy as a well-loved politician. But the catastrophe was also a wake-up call. The tragedy at San José served as a concrete example of the treacherousness of aging extraction-based industry in countries trying to hold their own in a cutthroat global economy. What Copiapó showed the world was yet another example of capitalism’s inability to protect workers and their communities: the cave-in was not a freak occurrence. It was inevitable.
After a period of notoriety, the miners themselves—many of whom have endured serious mental health problems since being trapped in San José—have returned to work in the impoverished villages surrounding the mine…and in equally dangerous conditions. Others are actually working on the production team of The 33, AP reports.
But will the same message shine through the rose-tinted lens of a Hollywood treatment?
Filming on The 33 began in Colombia in December (maybe their mines are more picturesque?), and since the crew moved to Chile on February 5, the web has been abuzz with bloggers and movie buffs eagerly anticipating the film, which will be released later this year.
Mexican director Patricia Riggen (of La Misma Luna semi-fame) has supposedly spent two years interviewing miners, local officials and rescue personnel in an effort to cobble together the untold realities of the 69 days the 33 men spent in the pit at San José. The film will focus on tensions among the miners and the daily struggle of surviving on meager rations, trapped thousands of meters underground, no less. It’s a story worth telling, but it’s a story that deserves to be portrayed realistically.
Aside from the fact that I’m irritated with Antonio Banderas’ casting and ecstatic I’ll be able to see forever girl crush, the gorgeous Chilean-born Cote De Pablo, on a 30-foot high screen, it’s still a mystery to what degree the filmmakers are going to explore the socioeconomic issues that caused and characterized the disaster.
Because yes, Copiapó was a gut-wrenching, tragi-heroic ordeal. But it was no anomaly. And here’s hoping the film acknowledges that far more disturbing reality while making a movie that doesn’t suck.