Click on the banner to read the full series
Carrying a backpack, a 13-year-old boy walks away from his ruined house and travels to the Venezuelan coast. On the way, he manages to touch people’s emotions when he tells the story of his life’s tragedy, thus obtaining help to survive. However, every time he repeats the story, he gives a different version of it. To some, he says he’s trying to find his mother; to others, she had to give up her life to save him; or yet he might say he’s a paternal orphan. The truths and the lies are connected to each other by the tragic landfall that occurred in 1999 in the state of Vargas, in Venezuela, and left thousands of missing and deceased.
A baseball country, Venezuela is leaning towards football
Master, the rapper that sings the Bolivarian Revolution
Director Martié Ugas’ movie “The Kid Who Lies”(El chico que miente, 2009), was a public success and participated in 2011’s Berlin International Film Festival. It is one of the most recent examples of the rebirth of Venezuelan cinema. Part of this transformation is due to the new political agenda to stimulate cultural production in Hugo Chávez’s government, professedly aimed at “breaking the dictatorship of American movies”.
The quality of local cinema, according to filmmaker and scriptwriter Diego Sequera, fell significantly during the 1990’s, as much in number of productions as in the quality of the material. “It was the boom of the movies identified with Hollywood, a form of colonialism through cinema”, says the Venezuelan, who works in the Cinema City (in Spanish, Villa del Cine), the first studio complex in the country and one of the main engines of movies production in Venezuela.
Located in Guarenas city, 20 miles east from Caracas, the enterprise has already produced more than 500 movies — including feature films, short films and documentaries. Most of them are about national issues, especially historical moments or icons. Chávez decided to invest in this complex, in his own words, when he was told that “eight large Hollywood studios share 85% of the world’s cinema production and represent 94% of the cinematographic offering in Latina America”.
This new cinema profile is criticized by filmmakers and independent producers, who consider the Venezuelan Cinecittà another instrument of the Chavist propaganda. The only scripts that receive investments are the ones connected to the left. Jonathan Jakubowicz, director of Secuestro Express, which won international recognition in 2005, accuses Cinema City of only supporting movies that “portray the revolution as the solution to every problem in the country, or those who tell stories about the independency leaders, always in a version that favors the values of the Bolivarian revolution”.
“I wish Cinema City only made movies inspired by the revolution”, answers Sequera. “But it’s not like this. Lots of government’s opponents work there. They’re openly contrary to the regime, and they have complete freedom to create”. To the scriptwriter, what should be criticized is the way the movies are produced, still mostly influenced by the American model. “In 2005, the industrialization of cinema started to change the audio-visual production structures in Venezuela. However, movies such as “Miranda regresa” and “La Clase” both use the gringo superproductions format. I believe there should be more creativity”, he complains.
The first movie quoted by Sequera was the biography of Francisco de Miranda, one of the precursors of the Venezuelan independency. It is140 minutes long, had a $ 2.32 million dollar budget, and involved more than a thousand extras. “Miranda Regresa” was filmed in Venezuela, Cuba and Czech Republic. American actor and activist Danny Glover, a Chávez´s public admirer, plays a small part on it. “La Clase” tells the story of a young humble violinist divided between his musical career and the history of Venezuela.
Along with Cinema City, The National Film School (Escuela Nacional de Cine), was created within the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), and the bachelor’s degree of Audio Visual Arts in the Experimental National University of the Arts (Unearte). Unearte was created in 2008, and it’s totally dedicated to arts, providing careers in theatre, dance, arts, music, and, since 2011, cinema.
Cinema City, also in 2011, opened the Professional Training Center. “There are areas in which we have only one specialist. This could work when we were making one or two full-length features a year, but not when we are making 10, 13, or 14 like now”, explained Pedro Calzadila, Minister of Culture, during the opening ceremony.
Translation: Kelly Cristina Spinelli