Feature: Gov’t backing helps Venezuela’s film industry thrive

by Victoria Arguello

CARACAS, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) — A decade after the Venezuelan government created a fund to finance filmmaking, the measure paid off with a coveted Golden Lion won at the 2015 Venice Film Festival.

Venezuelan film “Desde Alla” (From Afar) walked away with one of the movie industry’s most sought-after prizes, after being chosen best film at the 72nd edition of one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious festivals.

With a Golden Lion in pocket, Venezuela’s film industry now has its eye on the Oscars.

Venezuelan-Cuban filmmaker Mario Crespo credits the fledgling industry’s success to the creation of the filmmaking fund in 2005 as part of reforms under the country’s cinematographic law.

That move, he said, helped spur filmmaking by giving equal opportunities to directors and producers regardless of their ideological or socioeconomic background.

The South American country released more than 170 films in the past 10 years, almost four times the output in the previous 10-year period.

The improvement in both production and quality has also made the number of the country’s moviegoers increase to some 17 million, or 522 percent more than that in the previous 10 years.

Director Lorenzo Vigas’ Golden Lion is one of more than 610 international awards and prizes garnered by the Venezuelan movie industry in the past decades, a number that rivals Latin American filmmaking giants Mexico and Brazil.

Miguel Ferrari’s 2013 film “My Straight Son” (Azul y No Tan Rosa) won the Goya Award at the Spanish film festival, while Mariana Rondon’s “Bad Hair” (Pelo Malo) garnered the Golden Shell at Spain’s San Sebastian festival the same year.

Venezuela’s veteran filmmaker Roman Chalbaud agrees that the fund and other government initiatives, such as film production studio La Villa del Cine and distributor Amazonia Films, were key to the industry’s growth.

“The creation of the Villa del Cine was highly important,” Chalbaud told Xinhua. “Without doubt that led to more movies being made.”

Crespo hopes his latest movie, “Gone With the River” (Dauna, Lo que Lleva el Rio), will be nominated for and possibly win an Oscar or Goya.

The film, narrated in the Warao indigenous language, tells the story of a young indigenous woman who yearns to explore the world beyond her traditional male-dominated village in Venezuela’s Orinoco Delta.

“If it were just a love story, it wouldn’t be worth telling,” said Crespo. “We were more interested in using the plot of a love story to relate the life of a woman who faces many difficulties and risks to become who she wants to be.”

The rights and contributions of the country’s indigenous communities and women’s growing role in society are both hot topics in Venezuela’s changing society, Crespo said.

“We have to insert the branches of indigenous cultures into the trunk of universal culture,” he said, adding that filmmaking is an essential tool in this endeavor.

Both Crespo and Chalbaud agreed that Venezuela is undergoing a good moment that must not be wasted, and they called for continued government backing of younger filmmakers through scholarships and project financing.

According to Alberto Barbera, director of the Venice Film Festival, South America today is the new engine of cinema, as it is the only industry that relates new things and proposes different styles.


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