Director Patricia Riggen (center) on the set of The 33 (Douglas Kirkland/Warner Bros. Pictures)
Around 1.3 billion people worldwide watched the spectacular rescue of the 33 miners that were trapped due to a collapse in the San Jose mine in Chile, on Aug. 5, 2010. At a depth of 720 meters and for a length of 70 days, these men fought for survival in what is considered the largest and most effective rescue in the history of mining.
Due to its importance and the phenomenon it caused in the media worldwide, but above all because of the implementation of a strategic human method and technological approach to get these men out alive, the event deserved to be brought to the big screen. Today sees the release of The 33, the controversial film that tells a story about survival.
Living Out Loud – Los Angeles had the opportunity to talk with actress Kate del Castillo and director Patricia Riggen of the film. In this emotional and frank interview, the women talked about how fascinating it was to participate in the film, but also how difficult it was to face a production dominated by men.
Del Castillo plays Katty Valdivia, the wife of Mario Sepulveda (Antonio Banderas) who’s the guide and leader of the group of miners. The actress comments on how she heard about the real-life miners’ experience.
“I wasn’t able to follow the news during that time because I was [filming] ‘La Reina del Sur,’ but I obviously found out about what had happened,” she recalls. “I saw it on YouTube after and in all of the news, but I do remember that it paralyzed each and every one of us in the world.”
She also talks about whether or not she was able to put those emotions into the filming of The 33.
“In respect to carrying out that moment, more than anything, it was the excitement of all of the families who were there,” she says. “We were working with them, and they themselves were extras in the film, and that [excitement] was spread contagiously in a second.”
The responsibility of directing this interesting production falls on Mexican director Riggen. She talks about what she had to face commanding so much testosterone, 33 actors with distinct characters and what the fight for survival for the miners meant for her metaphorically.
“So much testosterone, but you’ve got some big ovaries,” laughs del Castillo.
“Honestly, I never imagined how difficult this film would be for me. I dealt with a lot of machismo, a lot of people didn’t believe in me, questioned me and tried to sabotage me, but I never let them bring me down. I never gave up in that sense, but also because I had allies, I had angels like Kate,” says Riggen. “Working with loyal, talented people who, like Kate, defend women, their friends and are there with you fighting until the end – that is what allowed me to survive. I think that my proudest moment with this film was being able to survive it. As Canelo would say, ‘On to the next.’”
“For all of the miners to be happy and emotional with the story, and also how difficult it was to please 33 men, they were very happy, really. This is what makes you stronger, all of the difficult things that happen to you make you stronger,” adds del Castillo.
“I was with a lot of men, but you showed up, and the energy changed. A lot of things changed for the better with you, and things eased up for me a lot,” Riggen says to del Castillo.
“I’m glad to know that, it gives me great joy,” del Castillo replies.
“You have a role in each one of my movies now,” smiles Riggen.
There were many key moments in the film that del Castillo enjoyed, and she shares which scenes were the ones that excited her most.
“The ones I enjoyed the most were ones I wasn’t in. When [co-star] Cote de Pablo sings ‘Gracias a La Vida,’ I cried because she sings it so spectacularly,” she shares. “Another scene is where the men imagine their women bringing them food, which to me, was a very amazing scene in every way.”
Riggen concludes with the biggest challenges she had to face during filming.
“Honestly, I could say 33 challenges. Challenge is directing 33 Latino men and being inside a mine for 35 days where you can’t breathe and rocks are always falling. It’s being in the driest desert in the world – the sand, the sun – and another 30 days with big groups of extras crying, shoving, screaming and drilling every day,” she tells. “The challenge is giving the real miners a beautiful film they can be proud of. There were thousands of challenges, but we are thrilled for the film to open in 2,500 theaters. It’s a record, and we’re just waiting for people to come out and see it.”
The 33 is intense, emotional and takes us back to that same moment of the actual event. It manages to convey the feelings that each miner felt, as well as every wife and family, with a story that is well told, well acted and well directed, along with great lighting and effects. It’s a a splendid picture.
The 33 is now in theaters.
Karen Cruz contributed to this story.