Distributor:  Icarus Films
Length:  46 minutes
Date:  2006
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English; Spanish; Quechua / English subtitles
Grade level: 9-12, College, Adult
Color/BW:  Color
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Can't Do It In Europe

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Some people travel to Bolivia to go down the dangerous silver mines, to see the medieval work conditions. Are they crawling through the contaminated tunnels to learn about a foreign culture, or to escape boredom?

Can't Do It In Europe

'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.' -Lonely Planet

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

'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


** 2007 Society for Visual Anthropology/AAA Film Festival
** 2007 Latin American Studies Association Film Festival
** 2007 MoMA Documentary Fortnight
** 2006 Cinema du Réel
** 2005 Malmo Latin American Film Festival
** 2005 Leipzig Documentary Festival


Main credits

Áhrén, Anna Klara (film producer)
Áhrén, Anna Klara (cinematographer)
Copcutt, Charlotte (film producer)
Weitz, Anna (film producer)
Chaname Zapata, Luiz (narrator)
Garnica, Eliana (narrator)

Other credits

Camera, Anna Klara Áhrén.

Distributor credits

A Film by Charlotta Copcutt, Anna Weitz and Anna Klara Ahrén

Docuseek2 subjects

Cultural Anthropology
Economic Anthropology
South America
Labor Studies
Tourism Sector

Distributor subjects

Business Ethics
Business and Economics
Cultural Anthropology
Economic Sociology
Environmental Film Festivals
Indigenous Peoples
Labor Studies
Latin America
South America


tourism; tourist; authentic; experience; economy; authenticity; artificality; philosophy; media; modern society; fantasy; reality; respresentation; representations; post-modern; documentary; film; videomining; minerals ; Cerro Rico; silver; silver mine; mine; catholic; belief; Bunuel; school; dvd; video; documentary; film; conquistadors; Rich Pinnacle; Potosi; Indios; devil; Tio; Catholicism; Christianity; Diablada; San Martin; child labor; ; "Can't Do It In Europe"; Icarus Films;

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