Monday, April 9, 2007

More Problems, please

Thanks to Aziz Isham, I solved the problem of the translator. The problem with a translator is that the American miner, Hugh, doesn't speak Spanish. Bringing him to Bolivia he will be able to see things and react to that, but he won't be able to react directly to what the people say. Plus everything in Spanish will have to be subtitled, and who reads subtitles. Bah. So we need an interpretor who will filter all of this information from Spanish to English and back again. Which sounds like a really boring way to make a film.

Aziz astutely raised yet another issue, the last time I talked to him. He noted that the film would benefit from having two miners who could interact rather than one. Call it the sidekick problem. Our miner needs someone to play off of and to talk to. Someone to ask him engaging questions and listen to what he says. Someone interesting, knowledgeable about mining and engaging on film. What Aziz didn't realize is that by raising the sidekick problem he was really solving the translator problem. The translator and the sidekick are one and the same.

I just finished a great interview with the second miner, Pedro. He started working in the mines in Cerro Rico in Potosi when he was very young, after his father had a bad accident and needed the help. From there, he began working as an assistant to one of the tour operators who bring gringos into the cooperatives of Cerro Rico. He taught himself English with the tourists and tripled his pay. He now works occasionally in the mines and occasionally as a guide.

Here's what struck me about Pedro when I met him two years ago. He stopped and asked his group of tourists in the mine and asked them why they wanted to see the mines in Potosi. It wasn't aggressive at all, but it showed a curiosity and thoughtfulness that is uncommon among bolivian tour guides. Enough so that, two years later, I remembered his name and was able to track him down almost instantly.

And in an interview this afternoon (with a beautiful golden sunlight and a perfect backdrop of green grasses), he proved to be curious, engaging, easygoing, entertaining. In short, it seems that my first impression was pretty accurate. Here is a translator who is interesting, knowledgeable about mining and engaging on film. Here is someone who can play off of Hugh, ask him engaging questions and listen to what he says. And a translator to boot.

So thanks to Aziz for raising solutions disguised as problems.

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