The tagline for French filmmaker Cédric Blaisbois’ short film Autocannibalism immediately warns you of what you’re about to watch: “One night of partying in the most violent city in the world: Caracas, Venezuela.” Only, the entire project was designed to look as if you’re following the night’s proceedings from the vantage point of a phone. As you watch a series of Instagram Live posts, WhatsApp conversations and video footage captured on an iPhone, you get a front-row seat to Blaisbois’ portrait of contemporary Venezuela — in that, the title offers a type of analysis of the current state of the South American country this short film is proposing.
It all begins with a group of friends in an armored car. (Blaisbois, playing Lou, is a foreigner, after all). They’re having fun on their way to a house party. The first hint of trouble on this wild night in the Venezuelan capital is a run-in with a guy on a car near them, who’s trying to get their attention in a violent manner. It rattles them. As they crosstalk in English and Spanish among themselves, they hear a gunshot aimed squarely at their car. Thankfully, they outrun the assailants and head to their party without a care in the world. Intercutting their partying (via Insta Stories captioned “I’ve had the time of my life” and “Happy Birthday!”) are Instagram posts that feature rioting in the streets, which the person whose phone we’re watching summarily ignores.
Once the night gets bloodier — there are more guns, a kidnapping and an impromptu rescue mission — the score by Finnish electronic musician Aku Raski (aka Huoratron) makes the film’s violent turn feel all the more propulsive. As we navigate the nighttime streets of Caracas (the film was actually shot in Mexico City), the shaky cam does creates the sense that what we’re watching is indeed real. Much of that has to do with Blaisbois’ capable Venezuelan cast which includes Irene Esser, a former Miss Venezuela, as well as Johanna Juliethe (El Comandante), Alexander Leterni (El Inca), Alí Rondón (El Señor de los Cielos), Sebastián Torres (Tamara) and Dimas González (Taita Boves).
Watch the full 19-minute short film below. Just remember: be sure to watch it on your phone, holding it vertically and in full screen to take in the complete experience.