Venezuela has been the talk of the town this year: Desde allá was the first ever Venezuelan film to compete in the Venice Film Festival, and it took home the top prize. Talk about starting off on the right foot. Now Dauna: Lo que lleva el río has been submitted for consideration for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. If you want to catch Dauna on the big screen, along with some other fresh Venezuelan films, head over to the Village East Cinemasfor the third edition of the Venezuelan Film Festival in New York.
Running from September 23 – 27, the fest showcases the best of the country’s up-and-coming talent. This year will feature stunning landscapes, fabulous drag queens, witty freestylers, ghosts, and even a little bit of magic. There are also special events like a panel on women in Venezuelan film — a much-needed conversation in an industry that’s still dominated by white men. The fest is only five days and we don’t want to keep you waiting, so here our top five picks.
The Venezuelan Film Festival in New York starts September 23 and runs through September 27, 2015.
La distancia más larga
Caracas: a suffocating, crowded, and violent city. After a tragic accident, a boy runs away to the Great Savanna in search of a grandmother he’s never met. Martina is a woman with a complicated past; she plans to immerse herself deep in Mount Roraima and never return. The infinite road stretches in front of them, and in their journey of self-discovery, grandmother and grandson meet in the most unexpected of ways. The lavish cinematography is as poetic as Vincent Barrière’s soundtrack of steel drums and violins. This film shows that sometimes you have to travel the longest distance in order to find freedom.
Perla, an ex-beauty queen, is willing to do anything it takes to have a beauty pageant champion in the family. She knows that sometimes to be a winner you have to do ugly things, and she doesn’t hesitate to teach her daughters that. Her obsession feeds a ferocious — and perhaps irreversible – rivalry between the two sisters. 3 Bellezas (3 Beauties) is like a particularly crazy episode of Toddlers & Tiaras that satirizes the famous Miss Venezuela contest and is sprinkled with hilarious Little Miss Sunshine moments. Don’t forget: plastic flowers never wither.
Junior is a young boy whose outward appearance just doesn’t match up with what he feels inside. He fervently hopes for “pelo bueno” instead of “pelo malo”– for him this means elusively straight, free flowing locks that he can only achieve by applying enormous amounts of effort and sometimes oil or mayonnaise to his naturally curly, kinky hair. As the darker-skinned older boy of his mother’s two children, it’s not just his more African features but also his more effeminate ways that make him the brunt of her anger. However, his grandmother understands and even encourages young Junior’s differences. She helps him blow out his hair and encourages him to sing and dance along to saucy 60s tunes.
Dauna. Lo que lleva el río
The first Venezuelan film shot almost entirely in the Warao language, Dauna. Lo que lleva el río (Gone with the River) is the story of an indigenous woman named Dauna who is marked by difference within her community. Torn between her love for Tarsicio and her desire to pursue studies outside of her village, Dauna’s decision to challenge the expectations of her traditional culture lead to suffering and, ultimately, reconciliation. The elegant cinematography captures the beauty of the region’s virgin landscapes and the new-agey soundtrack mixes traditional wind instruments with chattering, electronic percussion, setting a steady, medium pace that appropriately pushes along the drama.
A hairstylist, an activist, a poet, a dancer, and a Celia Cruz imitator: they are all somebody’s uncles. They also happen to be gay. In Tí@s (I Have an Uncle Like That), director John Petrizzelli begins by exploring his relationship with his own uncle, Ramón. Ramón was an elegant, glamorous gay man and socialite, who, rejected by his family, spent the last days of his life alone. This inspired Petrizzelli to explore other similar stories of elderly gay uncles in Venezuela. Using candid interviews and photographs, the filmmaker takes a close look at the daily lives of these men. The result is a documentary about the struggle of minorities, but also about the inevitable passing of time, the acceptance of death, and human relationships.