NINE of the Chilean miners who were trapped underground for more than two months in 2010 have sued their lawyers for failing to secure an adequate share of the revenue from a new Hollywood film about their 69-day ordeal.

The plaintiffs — many of whom are still suffering from physical and psychological after-affects — say their lawyers offered bad advice and cheated them out of income from books, TV serials and the movie.

The dispute appears to have divided the group of 33 men, who were trapped for more than two months 700 metres underground after a collapse of their mine in the Atacama desert in 2010.

The protracted rescue attempt made news around the world. Initially, the men promised one another not to profit from the experience, but the pact fell apart as their fame spread along with the lure of riches.

A movie, The 33, starring Antonio Banderas and Juliette Binoche, will be released in the US later this month. Several of the miners reportedly served as consultants on the film.

The 33 survivors had formed a joint company, which they hoped would allow them to split the proceeds and manage their finances, but they said in the lawsuit that they were misled by lawyers Remberto Rodrigo ValdEs and Fernando Garci.

“The contracts we signed were not what the lawyers said they would be, for example of the $150 million paid to our company, we only received 17 per cent” the group’s leader Luis Urzúa, told reporters at the courthouse. “Today we’re being rescued for a second time”.

The money is needed, they say, to help with a long and sometimes traumatic adjustment. Most have suffered health problems. Several have had difficulty finding work.

“I suffered a mental breakdown two years after the accident which led to panic attacks, insomnia and forgetfulness. I am still off work for health reasons and need to see a psychologist in Santiago every month,” Carlos Barrios, one of the younger miners, told the BBC earlier this month.

Despite their celebrity status, the survivors remained scarred, according to the author who interviewed them for the book Deep Down Dark.

“They were like guys who had been through war,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Hector Tobar, whose account is the basis for the new film, which premiered in Chile in August.

“They feel like they have been treated with a lack of respect. That people sort of see them as these ordinary guys who accidentally got buried underground and hoped to get rich and famous off of it,” Tobar told Reuters in an interview earlier this month.

—By arrangement with The Guardian

Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2015

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