In recent weeks, selection committees from nearly a dozen countries have revealed the film that will represent them at the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Last year a record 92 nations entered the race with what they considered to be their best movie. From that large number of submissions – and after two rounds of voting and a preliminary shortlist – the final five nominees were selected. Chile’s A Fantastic Woman deservingly took the prize in the end.

This season, the first Latin American entry announced is from Venezuela. Gustavo Rondón Córdova’s first feature La Familia has officially joined the list of contenders vying for a possible nomination following its commercial debut in Venezuelan cinemas this summer.

Set in present-day Caracas, this gritty crime drama revolves around Pedro (Reggie Reyes), a 12-year-old whose days entail hanging out in the streets with other kids or playing video games without much adult supervision. His father, Andrés (Giovanny García), is rarely around, but when the unruly young man gets caught up in a violent altercation with another boy, decides it’s better for them to run away than facing the legal consequences of his son’s behavior. On the run, proximity and the gravity of their circumstances strengthen the once shaky bond between them.

As with many social realist works, La Familia employs an understated visual stylize. Handheld shooting allows for an energetic feel as the camera follows the characters through sordid encounters. Realism is also observed in the subdued color palette that aims to simply reflect the urban landscape rather than embellishing it.

La Familia premiered at Cannes Critics’ Week in 2017 and went on to play over 40 international film festivals gathering accolades including the Best Film Award in the Ibero-American Competition at the Miami International Film Festival.

Venezuela’s closest shot at a nomination came when Alberto Arvelo’s historical epic El Libertador (The Liberator), starring Édgar Ramírez as Simón Bolivar, made the nine-film shortlist but failed to advance to the last stage. In 2016, Desde allá (From Afar) by Lorenzo Vigas was believed to be as a strong selection by awards pundits after winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, but ultimately didn’t make the cut.

Film Movement is releasing the La Familia in the US this year.

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