Ed Schultz took on an unexpected issue for his first MSNBC documentary: the story of the thirty-three Chilean miners who emerged alive after being trapped underground for two months last year.
“17 Days Buried Alive” documents the first harrowing days that the miners survived with scant food and water, and no idea whether people were even looking for them. The film, which airs Friday at 10 p.m., tells the story through exclusive interviews with six of the miners and reconstructions of the events. MSNBC secured the rights and added footage to the original production, and Schultz narrated the documentary.
While the topic may seem surprising, Schultz told The Huffington Post that the miners' story "is really about worker’s rights,” and bears striking parallels to the story of workers in America. He called the tunnel collapse in the Atacama Desert an example of the corporate neglect and dangerous conditions that workers face.
“Had the families not stepped up, I’m not sure that the miners would have been rescued,” he surmised, referring to the relatives who camped out at the mine until crews successfully freed the workers. "We were on the verge of seeing a great injustice play out."
Shultz said that the story had a message that resonated with him: "that we have to value labor in this world." It is a familiar point for the MSNBC host, who railed against another mining company, Massey Energy, after the death of 29 miners in one of their West Virginia mines in 2010.
The documentary’s narration, however, required a lighter touch than Schultz, known for his fiery monologues, usually employs. He acknowledged that adapting a different style was one of the most challenging aspects of the project. "Your mood has to fit exactly what they’re doing,” he explained.
The mood of the miners' accounts -- coupled with "the anticipation of it all" -- is exactly what Schultz believes is so striking about the documentary. "What is so compelling is the resilience of the miners and how they held together, that the story deals with life and death," he added. "The drama was unparalleled."
The rest of the world seemed to agree last year, watching the rescue with bated breath and turning the saga into the ultimate human interest story. Since then, the miners have dealt with the fame, and struggled with the psychological consequences of their entrapment.
Schultz said he had not anticipated working on "17 Days," but was captivated by the events and jumped at the opportunity when the network approached him. Nearly one year after the rescue, he believes that the experience of "Los 33" still has all its magic. "It's a story unlike any other told," he said.