The World Comes Together
Disaster tends to bring people together. When there is a major earthquake or tsunami, the world rallies to the aid of those affected with donations of money, food, and supplies. Volunteers travel to help with clean-up or in makeshift medical facilities. Sometimes government policies and red tape get in the way of a timely response but dedicated people find ways to reach out. The same happened when 33 men got trapped in a Chilean mine in 2010. Their story is told in The 33.
The collapse of the San Josė Mine on August 5, 2010 trapped the miners underground with only 3 days of food and water available. The world watched as efforts were made to determine whether they were dead or alive. When a drill head probing for the miners 17 days after the collapse reached the surface with a note attached to it, hope kindled. It read, “Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33,” (The 33 of us are fine in the shelter).
Starring Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche, and Gabriel Byrne, The 33 captures the struggles not only of the miners themselves but of the families who waited topside for news. The filmmakers made some strange casting choices, such as Bob Gunton as Chilean President Piñera and Juliette Binoche as Maria Segovia as well as choosing to do the film in English instead of Spanish. However, the film’s focus on the first 17 days of the ordeal gave it the tension it needed to keep the audience invested despite knowing the outcome.
The unlikey hero of the film is Laurence Goldborne (Rodrigo Santoro), a government appointee. As the minister of mines, he oversaw the rescue operation. When he first drives to the site, Maria Segovia (Binoche) challenges him to bypass government posturing and get working on real solutions to rescue the miners. He takes her ultimatum to heart and never gives up, even in the face of the probability that the miners would die of starvation long before rescue could reach them. The waiting was just as intense for the miners, who lived on a few cans of food and a bit of milk each day. The fantasy sequence as they imagine feasting with family brings home just how precious and precarious life really is. As hope and food dwindled, they became brothers to each other, encouraging those losing hope. “I believe we’re going to make it out of here because I choose to believe it. All 33 of us,” says Mario Sepúlveda (Banderas). After 69 days in the belly of the earth, they left a note on the wall of the Refuge, “God was with us.”
Looking Outside Ourselves
The 33 moved me deeply. I’m not that into the news so I did not follow the story closely. I prayed for the miners and their families along with the world but paid little heed as the story unfolded. The movie stirred a desire in me to be more attentive to the world around me. Yes, I have troubles of my own on a day to day basis but there are people out there who are experiencing worse things. This doesn’t negate my own problems but it means that I’m called to look outside myself, to become involved in the needs around me, especially through prayer.
The Triumph of Hope
The character of Maria Segovia was the embodiment of hope. Her estranged brother was trapped in the mine. Even though he hadn’t spoken to her for a long time, she was the one who advocated for the men and their families. Together with other miner’s families, Camp Hope became her home during the long wait. Once contact was made and video conferencing with the miners was possible, she took her turn in front of the camera but her brother never showed his face from the other end. Only upon emerging from the rescue capsule did he seek her out, begging forgiveness.