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Chilean miners feel cheated of Hollywood dollars

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Ordeal of Chilean miners trapped underground made into movie The 33

The Chilean miners who were trapped underground for months have been immortalised in a film starring Antonio Banderas.

But for some, real life has no happy ending.

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

"We felt abandoned from the start," Ms Jessica Cortes, wife of miner Victor Zamora, told AFP.

"I have lived through these anxious years with him, seeing how he gets depressed at not finding a job and at feeling cheated."

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.

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

Mr 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 of the Hollywood dollars being made from their story.

"They have been seriously affected as workers," said Mr 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."

With two children aged four and nine, Mr Zamora is as poor now as he was before the mining accident.

In March, a storm destroyed his home and left him and his family in the street.

He lives in social housing off odd jobs and a state allowance of US$450 (S$640) a month, awarded to the eldest of the 33 miners.

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.


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

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

Mr Urzua has 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.

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

Each of them received a gift of US$7,000 from Chilean mining entrepreneur Leonardo Farkas.

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