"A visit to the cooperative mines will almost surely be one the most memorable experience you'll have in Bolivia, providing an opportunity to witness working conditions that should have gone out with
the Middle Ages."
Already visited Paris, Rome, Berlin, Madrid and the other great cities of Europe? Looking for a truly unusual tourist spot? Then how about the silver mines of Potosi in Bolivia, billed as "the best adventure in the Cerro Ricco," where you can don helmets, gloves and overalls and descend into the dark, stiflingly hot, and polluted mines to watch real Bolivian miners at work?
CAN'T DO IT IN EUROPE portrays this new phenomenon of 'reality tourism,' whereby bored American or European travelers seek out real-life experiences as exciting tourist "adventures." The film follows a group of such international tourists as they visit the mines in Potosi—the poorest city in the poorest nation in Latin America—where Bolivian miners work by hand, just as they did centuries ago, to extract silver from the earth.
Led by their Bolivian tour guide, a former miner himself, and walking through constricted, muddy and poorly ventilated tunnels, breathing fetid air laced with arsenic, asbestos and toxic gases, and occasionally dodging fast-moving carts loaded with silver ore, the tourists take in the "sights" with goggle-eyed amazement and not a little uneasiness. Although they give the miners recommended gifts of coca leaves and soft drinks, the cultural encounter is no less awkward, with the miners cracking jokes about the "gringitos" and wondering, "God knows why they come to see us."
In addition to interviews with the tourists, tour guide, and an elderly retired miner, CAN'T DO IT IN EUROPE features a discussion by the city's Director of Development, who boasts of the city's growing tourist trade—presently 50,000 tourists per year—and explains why, in order to preserve the authentic "experience" for tourists, they don't want to change or improve working conditions for the miners.
After the visit to the mines is concluded with a bang, literally, by the chance to explode a stick of dynamite, several of the tourists comment on the value of such Third World tourism. Apart from the fact that you CAN'T DO IT IN EUROPE, as one explains, you can also better appreciate your own life after you've seen people worse off than yourself.
"Accessible to those first being introduced to anthropology, it is also provocative and engaging for senior students able to address more fully themes of postcolonialism, the tourist gaze, authenticity, commodification, globalization, and discourses of Orientalism and 'imperialist nostalgia.'"—Anthropologica
2007 Society for Visual Anthropology/AAA Film Festival
2007 Latin American Studies Association Film Festival
2007 MoMA Documentary Fortnight
2006 Cinema du Réel
2005 Malm÷ Latin American Film Festival
2005 Leipzig Documentary Festival
"An excellent film for provoking classroom discussion on the role of contemporary tourism in the developing world! The film offers a comprehensive exploration of its subject from all sides of the tourist encounter. This is essential viewing for tourism studies, cultural anthropology, and documentary film courses."—Pegi Vail, Anthropologist/Filmmaker/Curator, Anthropology Department, Columbia University