HotDocs ’24: The Fabulous Gold Harvesting Machine

Directed by Alfredo Pourailly de la Plaza, The Fabulous Gold Harvesting Machine follows Toto, an aging father who spends his days immersed in the water and muck of the Chilian caves as he attempts to harvest gold. Having done so for over 40 years, the conditions have taken their toll on Toto, leaving his health declining. In response, his son, Jorge, develops a plan to build a machine to relieve his father’s workload

The true soul of this Machine is Toto himself. Having given his life to harvesting this precious mineral, the film treats him with a certain reverence. After all, with very little income incoming, he works tirelessly to continue his livelihood. With humility and candor, Toto speaks freely about his situation, recognizing his own mortality and the financial stability that has eluded him. 

Without the benefit of retirement support, Toto feels like the epitome of the abandoned worker. This is a man who has never been able to find success yet neither has he ever had the opportunity. In many ways, Toto is the fabulous gold harvesting machine. He is a hard worker who remains committed. Even the quiet expressions on his face speak to his struggle. At the same time though, he also recognizes the futility of his labour. (“I was [dumb] and thought I’d make my own path,” he reflects.) Even so, he has made peace with his daily grind, believing that there is nothing that lies ahead for him.

However, this Machine still has a heart. Embedded within his relationship with his son, the development of the titular device becomes a metaphor for love and support. Jorge’s creation lies not out of his desire for profitability but instead for his deep love for his father. If Jorge can lighten his burden, then the machine is worth it. Because what makes this machine truly Fabulous is the relationship between father and son that builds it.

To hear our interview with Alfredo Pourailly de la Plaza, click here.

The Fabulous Gold Harvesting Machine is playing at HotDocs ’24. For more information, click here.

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