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// Films // The Devil's Miner

The Devil's Miner

Kief Davidson & Richard Ladkani / United States - France - Spain / 2005 / 82 ' / Spanish / S.T. English


Kief Davidson
Kief Davidson & Richard Ladkani
Richard Ladkani
Leonardo Heiblum
Andrés Solis
Carles Brugueras, Kief Davidson, Richard Ladkani & Werner Vennewald

Links & Reviews

Awards & Festivals

2005 Winner, Woodstock Film Festival, Best Documentary
2005 Winner, Tribeca Film Festival, Best New Documentary Filmmaker
2005 Winner, Mexico City International Contemporary Film Festival, Best Humanitarian Content
2005 Winner, Jerusalem Film Festival, Best Documentary
2005 Nominated, International Documentary Association, Pare Lorentz Award
2005 Winner, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, FIPRESCI Prize
2005 Nominated, German Camera Award, German Camera Award - Outstanding Editing
2005 Nominated, German Camera Award, German Camera Award
2005 Winner, German Camera Award, German Camera Award - Honorable Mention
2005 Winner, European Film Awards, Best Documentary Award
2005 Winner, Chicago International Film Festival, Best Documentary
2005 Winner, BendFilm Festival, Best Cinematography
2006 Nominated, Directors Guild of America, USA, Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary
2008 Winner, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, Best Documentary

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'The Devil's Miner' tells the story of 14-year-old Basilio who worships the devil for protection while working in a Bolivian silver mine to support his family.


THE DEVIL’S MINER is the story of 14-year-old Basilio Vargas and his 12-year-old brother Bernardino, who work in the ancient Cerro Rico silver mines of Bolivia. It is believed that over eight million workers have perished in the mines since the 16th century. The brothers and their younger sister pose playfully for the camera, smiling, one of the boy’s hands is making “rabbit ears” behind the girls head Vanessa with her brothers after a day in the mines Raised without a father and living in extreme poverty with their mother and six-year-old sister on the slopes of the mine, the boys assume many adult responsibilities. It takes two months’ work just to afford the clothing and supplies vital to their education. Without an education, the brothers have no chance to escape their destiny in the silver mines. The Vargas boys chew coca leaves to stave off hunger and keep their wits about them during their long hours in the mines, where they also present offerings to El Tío, the malevolent spirit that is believed to reside there. Each mine has its own statue of the horned demon who guards the mine’s riches. According to local legend the mines are the exclusive province of El Tío, the protector and destroyer of the miners. El Tío is a miner’s only hope of salvation in this heavily Catholic region, where the people believe that the spirit of God does not exist in the hellish underworld inside the mountain. Filmmakers Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani spent months with the Vargas family, journeying down into the Cerro Rico mines with Basilio, Bernardino and the adult villagers who risk their lives to make a meager living. The result is both harrowing and moving, a portrait of a world where children risk their lives daily in hopes of an eventual better life—if the quest doesn’t kill them first.


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