THE DEVIL’S MINER (Lief Davidson, Richard Ladkani, 2005)

The Devil’s Miner, by Lief Davidson and Richard Ladkani, a documentary from the U.S. and Germany, centers on a 14-year-old boy’s toil in Bolivian silver mines, to help support his family (mother, younger brother and sister). The boy has already worked in the mines for four years; others in Bolivia who do so generally do not reach their fortieth birthday.
     In its narrow range, the film is technically assured, humane and heartbreaking. It mines a vein of pathos pertaining to the boy’s poverty, work, aspirations, etc., that is most effective. I was moved to tears a lot by Basilio Vargas’s lot in life.
     A basic rule of exposition, though, is not to say or show anything that raises questions that remain unanswered, and the material here cries out for politico-economic contextualization that the filmmakers leave unaddressed. By mining the same vein of pathos from start to finish, the film, so beautifully launched, grows thin, annoying, monotonous. The film possesses considerable merit, but not enough.
     The Devil’s Miner is in Spanish.

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