By Andrew Halloway

Movie mines rich seam of hope

‘The 33’ film faithfully recounts Chile miners’ miracle rescue

 Antonio Banderas
Antonio Banderas plays charismatic miner Mario Sepúlveda

A new movie released five years after the Chilean miners' rescue keeps to the spirit of the dramatic true story.

Antonio Banderas, star of films such as The Mask of Zorro, Evita and Spy Kids, plays a charismatic miner trapped 2,300 feet underground with 32 others in the 2010 disaster.

The 33, released in Australia in February, is based on the true story of their 69 days trapped in the 121-year-old San Jose mine after an explosion blocked all exits, and the miraculous rescue that followed.

For the first 17 days, no one above ground knew if there were survivors, and the miners themselves didn't know if they'd been abandoned.

With only three days' worth of food and drink to survive on, both the miners and rescuers turned to God and prayed.

Celebration erupted when the men were discovered to be still alive, and the frantic rescue effort became a global media event watched by over 1 billion people.

The movie, also starring Juliette Binoche, Lou Diamond Phillips, Gabriel Byrne and James Brolin, doesn't shy away from what kept hope alive.

Antonio Banderas says faith was vital: "The faith of all of those women, the politician who became a human, and those miners ...  How many people have died that we don't know because people didn't have this push?  I'm pretty sure more people than we know because they didn't have faith."

The 33

After their rescue, the group recalled how God had performed various miracles to keep them alive.

Jose Henriquez, a committed Christian among the miners, became the group's unofficial 'pastor' during their ordeal, saying: "God is the only way out of this."

Together the miners prayed daily for forgiveness, help, rescue and unity.  The drillers above held hands as they prayed to Jesus for success.

Jose told fellow miners of the biblical Jonah, who was swallowed by a large fish in the sea after running away from God, but was spewed back up onto land after he turned to God in prayer. Jonah recalled: "I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever. But you, O Lord my God, snatched me from the jaws of death!"

The miners saw the analogy with their situation, and took hope from it. Jose encouraged them to look to Christ for their salvation – both spiritual and physical.

Finally, on Day 18, a small drill broke through, and the miners sent up notes.  One read "We are well in the Refuge. The 33."

Cheers and sobbing erupted as drillers, families, the nation and the world rejoiced.

The challenge was then how to get the men out, and a huge effort began that ended with the moving rescue.

As the men emerged from the tiny capsule that brought them up to the surface, many dropped to their knees to give God thanks.

All 33 came up wearing shirts that said, "Thank you Lord" on the front.  The back read "To Him be the glory and honour" and Psalm 95:4, which says: "In His hands are the depths of the earth."

Mario, a miner played by Banderas, said: "I was with God and I was with the devil.  But God won.  I held on to God's hand.  At no point in time did I doubt that God would get me out of there."

Omar Reygadas, a 56-year-old mechanic, emerged holding a Bible and wearing a helmet with "God lives" written on it.  Jimmy Sanchez said: "There are actually 34 of us because God has never left us down here."

Those working on the rescue also witnessed divine intervention during the efforts.  Topographer Macarena Valdes told The Wall Street Journal: "It was 75 percent engineering and 25 percent a miracle."

In the years since, many have struggled to find work due to posttraumatic stress and have lived on a small monthly pension. A portion of the movie profits is split evenly between the 33 miners, as they did with the food and water down the mine. But they have no doubt that their rescue was a miracle – an answer to prayer.

Sources: ASSIST News; Christian Post

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