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The movie ‘Once Upon A Time in Venezuela’ tells the story of a small town that survives the corruption and pollution in Venezuela. Photo: YouTube.
The movie ‘Once Upon A Time in Venezuela’ tells the story of a small town that survives the corruption and pollution in Venezuela. Photo: YouTube.

Surviving corruption and contamination in Venezuela

'Once Upon A Time in Venezuela is a film that explores the tentacles of corruption in the Venezuelan working class, and will be screened in Madrid this week.

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“Under the silent lightning of Catatumbo, there is a town called Congo Mirador, south of Lake Maracaibo, the largest oil field in Venezuela. There, people prepare for the parliamentary elections. For the Chavista leader of the town, Tamara, every vote counts and she does everything to obtain them. For Natalie, shyly oppositional, politics is a weapon to get her out of her teaching job. While little Yoaini sees how her community gets muddy in the growing sedimentation and how her childhood dissolves,” reads the synopsis of the film Once Upon A Time in Venezuela (Era una vez en Venezuela), directed by Venezuelan filmmaker Anabel Rodríguez Ríos.

It's the filmmaker's feature debut, which explores the answer to this question: How can a small fishing village survive corruption, pollution and political devastation? The film will be screened in Madrid this week in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Casa de América.

In an interview released by the organization, Ríos said the film is a reflection of what has happened to the Venezuelan people from a socio-political perspective.

“The division of society is reflected, and on the other hand, tremendously paradoxical, that the people who live in Lake Maracaibo, which is the place where the oil for the entire system has come from, are living the consequences of what it means being in a very polluted place in times of climate change,” she explained.

She admitted that shooting the movie forever changed her life as a person and professional.

“It is an experience that is hard on the one hand, it is complex and because there you have many types of people that you are dealing with, you have what they call the pirates of the lake, there are the fishermen, there are people who are very kind, but on the other side you can have paramilitaries. It was a great experience to learn, to sit at a table with God and the devil together and share some time there,” she said about the production that has lasted five years. 

The film Once Upon A Time in Venezuela had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and became the first Venezuelan documentary to feature at the festival.

In addition to having been screened at other festivals in the United States, such as Tribeca and CPH DOX, and being part of the official selection for the Malaga Festival, Ríos' production was selected to represent Venezuela in the Oscar nomination process for Best Documentary Film.

Ríos' debut film won the Best Film award at the 2021 Euganes Film Festival, and the Special Choral Jury Award at the Havana Film Festival, one of the oldest in Latin America.

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