The Iron Digger
At 84, Raj Bahadur Budha Magar is the last iron digger in Nepal. When he finally departs the scene, an ancient tradition will disappear with him, since there is no one to succeed him. The Nepalese government has closed the mines. Those who still practised these skills either died in the civil war or have left to find new work. No one knows how to dig iron anymore, and anyway, who wants to live under the primitive conditions in this isolated region of Nepal?
Magar’s house betrays no semblance of modern-day life. On his smallholding his ox ploughs the soil as if it were still 1437. The legends that live on to recount this ancient occupation are also proof of how unique his life and culture are.
Director Anil Budha Magar comes from the same ethnic community as the Magars. While he moved to Kathmandu and became an award-winning filmmaker – he has also won awards for The Iron Digger – the mountain people were left behind, without any notion of cameras, film or cinema.
Descending with a camera into the mine presented a difficult challenge. Ultimately, Magar succeeds in capturing the story of the last iron digger with respect, empathy and exquisite images. Just in time.