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Five years and a film later, there is no Hollywood ending for the rescued Chilean miners

‘We have felt abandoned from the start’.

A scene from the film The 33
A scene from the film The 33
Image: YouTube

THE CHILEAN MINERS who became celebrities after months trapped underground are now immortalised in a Hollywood film starring Antonio Banderas – but for some, real life has had no happy ending.

Five years on, with movie The 33 hitting screens across the US, men who lived through the ordeal and their families are struggling on with lives of little glamour.

“We have felt abandoned from the start,” said Jessica Cortes, wife of one of the miners, Victor Zamora.

“I have lived through these anxious years with him day after day, seeing how he gets depressed at not finding a job and at feeling cheated,” she said.

The miners’ tale of survival warmed hearts worldwide. For the media, it was a tale of friendship and triumph in adversity. But squabbles and contrasting fortunes have since divided the heroic 33.

Chile Mine Collapse One of the trapped miners after he is rescued in October 2010 Source: Associated Press

Some went on to build successful lives, including Luis Urzua, the foreman of the group working in the San Jose copper mine when it collapsed.

Urzua says he and some of his companions have managed to get work with big mining groups and are better off now than before the accident.

But others struggle to find work and say they have been cheated out of the Hollywood dollars being made from their story.

Chile Mine Rescue Luis Urzua, left, with then-Chilean president Sebastián Piñera in 2011 Source: Associated Press

“They have been seriously affected as workers,” said Alberto Iturra, a psychologist who treated the miners.

“They think that at any moment they are going to be laid off and stop working, or worse, that they will be unable to cope with the stress.”

Homeless, poor

With two children aged four and nine, Zamora is as poor now as he was before the mining accident. He lives in social housing off odd jobs and a state allowance of $450 (€415) a month, awarded to the eldest of the 33 miners.

Chile Mine Collapse Victor Zamora after his rescue Source: Associated Press

In March a fresh disaster hit his family: a storm destroyed their home and left them in the street.

In The 33, Banderas stars as the charismatic Mario Sepulveda, who acted as one of the leaders of the group, helping to keep their spirits up until they were rescued in October 2010.

Sepulveda is among those who have prospered since climbing out of the mine: he has launched a construction business and a charitable foundation.

Banderas Banderas in the film The 33 Source: YouTube

But others in the group have not benefited from the fame their ordeal brought them, and are bitter at the way they have been treated.

“Each of them has his own story; each had his own experience,” said Sepulveda.

Disputes have broken out, in particular, about contracts for managing the rights to their story.

Urzua was among several miners who attended a premiere of The 33 in Hollywood this week, ahead of its general US release on Friday.

2015 AFI Fest - The 33 - Arrivals Four of the trapped miners at a gala screening for The 33 Source: Associated Press

Film earnings lost

The movie has been rolled out across Latin America since August and heads to Asia and Europe over the coming months.

The ex-foreman has also led a group of nine miners who sued their lawyers this month, accusing them of cheating them out of money from the rights to their story, including earnings from the film.

Sepulveda took issue with his comrades’ lawsuit, saying they were being “led astray by people who haven’t read the contracts properly.”

But Victor Zamora insisted: “The division we have within the group is because of what the lawyers have done to us.”

YE Chile Mine Collapse Relatives of the trapped miners celebrate their rescue Source: Associated Press

After emerging from the mine before the cameras of the world’s media, the miners traveled around the world telling their story.

Each of them received a gift of $7,000 (€6,500) from Leonardo Farkas, an eccentric Chilean mining entrepreneur.

One of them even found love waiting for him in the light at the top of the mineshaft.

A German woman watching the drama on television fell in love with miner Daniel Herrera and contacted him online. They are now married and living together in Chile.

- © AFP, 2015

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