Making miners into a movie… or two

My roommate was a Chilean miner for Halloween. Fewer than 20 days have passed since the 33 miners who were stuck underground for more than two months emerged back into the world, and the costume was a hit. On Oct. 13, cameras were set up in the midst of a Chilean desert to publicize a live feed on countless news stations around the world. As the miners stepped out of a Phoenix 2 capsule created by NASA, the rescue looked more like a scene from a science fiction movie than real life. In those first moments when the miners began to surface, one by one out of their underground prison, I couldn’t help but think, “Wow this would make a great movie!” And, I wasn’t alone.

Within days of the miners’ rescue, talks of documentaries and feature films were rampant. Many production studios were scrambling to secure the rights to the made-for-film story of the men. An international frenzy of reporters begged for interviews. Information was released indicating that the miners had come to a contractual agreement while still underground concerning the expected fame and the money that would result from their entrapment. The men apparently promised never to reveal personal details of how they endured those first 17 days before contact was established with the outside world. They also agreed to evenly divide all future proceeds from what can best be described as a filmmaker’s dream.

Tragedy turned heroic rescue—a better byline couldn’t be made up. There’s much more to the story though, and while all the future movies, books and interviews might paint a picture of those dramatic 69 days below ground, it’s what happened above the surface and after the rescue that might be even more revealing.

The Chilean President Sebastian Pinera found himself in the middle of a political opportunity and milked the successful rescue for all its worth. The government granted the press nearly free access to the site allowing for unlimited online streaming of the president hugging each man who emerged from the capsule, one by one.

Rumors have surfaced in the UK that Spainard Javier Bardem is to star in a movie already in its production stages. The men haven’t even adjusted to their lives above ground, and actors attempting to tell their stories are already replacing them.

One month into the crisis, Nova, a documentary airing on most PBS stations, captured the story of miners trapped underground and the science used to rescue them. This seemingly undercover reality television show was started before the men were back above ground.

What does it say about our world when men who are stuck underground on the verge of insanity spend their time drafting a contract to ensure their financial security? And what does it say when movies about the event are already being made? Isn’t it too soon? The very personal struggles of the miners and their families have been commercialized, and there is no going back. Miners have been turned into sellable characters, logos on a billboard and Halloween costumes. We can’t get enough, and so they will keep giving. But the truth is, who can blame them? These men saw their opportunity for fame and fortune and took it by the reins. The promise of a new kind of life is a powerful thing, even if it comes from half a mile underground.

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