This is the right time to once again recognize the work of Venezuelan filmmakers, especially those who in recent years have found their source of work in other parts of the world, globalizing like the film industry itself.
Venezuelan Filmmakers: Globalizing Cinema through Co-Productions and Creative Expansion
The most recent films of Venezuelan cinema have a foreign flavor. The realization of co-productions with other countries has become a lifesaver for an industry with financing problems without having to resort to state controls.
However, this artistic exodus has also allowed directors to integrate into new markets and expand their creative horizons, exploring different stories not necessarily related to the Venezuelan context.
From Caracas to Hollywood: The Rise of Venezuelan Filmmaker Jonathan Jakubowicz and his Latest Film “Resistance”
Venezuelan filmmaker Jonathan Jakubowicz a graduate in Social Communication from the Universidad Central de Venezuela, began his career as a film critic. In 1997 however, he graduated from the New York Film School and his first work was the documentary “Los barcos de la esperanza” (2000) which he co-directed with Elizabeth Mundlak.
In this film, he pays tribute to his roots by telling the story of the ships Caribia and Koenigstein which brought Jewish refugees fleeing Nazism in Europe to Venezuela in 1939.
It was during this time that he met Venezuelan-American producer Elizabeth Avellán, known for her work on films such as “El Mariachi” (1992), “Desperado” (1995) and “Mini Spies” (2001).
With her support, Jakubowicz co-produced wrote and directed his debut feature, “Secuestro Express” (2004), a social drama that addresses the issue of insecurity in Venezuela. The film became the highest grossing film in the country’s history until the release of “Papita, maní, tostón” (2013).
Currently based in Los Angeles, USA, Jakubowicz has been close to the Hollywood industry participating in projects such as the HBO series “Prófugos”.
His experience shows that films can be made beyond nationality as in the case of “Hands of Stone” (2016), a U.S.-Panamanian co-production about the life of Panamanian boxer Roberto Durán, starring Édgar Ramírez and starring Robert de Niro, Ana de Armas, Usher and Rubén Blades.
Jakubowicz continues to work with renowned actors in his latest film “Resistance” (2022) available on Netflix. The film stars Jesse Eisenberg as famed mime Marcel Marceau who was part of the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation.
Bella Ramsey, Ed Harris, Matthias Schweighöfer and Clémence Poésy, among others, complete the cast. In “Resistance” the director reconnects with his family roots by telling the story of how hundreds of orphaned children survived anti-Semitic persecution thanks to the struggle of Marceau and other Jewish rebels.
This film is a testament to Jakubowicz’s growth as a director from his early work filming the violence of the streets of Caracas.
Lorenzo Vigas: The Venezuelan Filmmaker Making Waves in Mexico and Beyond
Filmmaker Lorenzo Vigas (born in 1967 in Mérida, Venezuela) has been living in Mexico for more than two decades. This background has permeated his style and the resources he has used to advance his filmography as he tackles universal issues in Latin America from a unique perspective.
The son of visual artist Oswaldo Vigas, Lorenzo studied molecular biology at the University of Tampa Florida, before graduating from New York University in 1995 with a degree in film.
He directed the short film Elephants Never Forget in Mexico which screened at the Cannes Film Festival, after working at Bolivar Films and directing the documentary series Expedition for RCTV in Venezuela in 1998.
In 2016 Vigas released his first feature film “Desde allá” which received international critical acclaim. Starring renowned Chilean actor Alfredo Castro the film tells the story of a homosexual romance between an older man and a young gang member in Caracas.
The movie became the first Venezuelan movie to win the Golden Lion at Venice and an Honorable Mention at San Sebastian. Other nominations include Goya Awards and American Film Institute Festival.
In 2021 Vigas co-wrote his second film with Argentine screenwriter Paula Markovitch who lives in Mexico. Together they created a story that concludes Vigas’ trilogy about the conflict with the father figure and his absence in the Latin American social context.
Although quite personal in its approach, the film also explores the social reality of border communities using all the cultural experiences Vigas has accumulated in his years in the region. The film was selected to represent Venezuela in the race for the Oscar nomination for Best International Film.
It also received nominations at the San Sebastian and Venice Film Festivals where it won the Sfera 1932 and Leoncino d’Oro awards.
Venezuelan Filmmakers Rojas and Vasquez make Directorial Debut with Upon Entry, a Film about Immigration and Identity
Venezuelan filmmakers Alejandro Rojas and Juan Sebastián Vásquez have forged their individual expertise in the film industry, the former in storytelling and the latter in the creation of images. Their directorial debut came in 2022 with Upon Entry after they coincided in Barcelona, Spain.
Vasquez, a graduate of Monteavila University, emigrated to Catalonia more than 15 years ago to study cinematography. Since then, he has worked as editor and director of photography on numerous feature films, including Don’t Speak (2015), Rostro Pálido (2018), Callback (2017) and El practicante (2020) among others. In addition, he also directed the short film Probably Lied in 2015.
Rojas, for his part, studied Cinematic Arts at UCV and then worked for 12 years as a writer and creative director for HBO Latin America. After emigrating in 2011 he served as editor and content director, with credits in his career as director of the short film Inside (2006) and screenwriter on Probably Lied as well as an editor on El Practicante.
Both filmmakers drew on their personal experiences as Venezuelan migrants to create Upon Entry, which tells the story of a Spanish couple held in a U.S. airport.
The film reflects the fears experienced by many Latin Americans seeking a better life abroad and being treated as second-class citizens. Vasquez has acknowledged that his films do not focus on the Venezuelan reality but rather on his own experiences.
Upon Entry debuted at the Black Nights Festival in Tallinn, Estonia where it received the Fipresci Award and was also awarded Best Film at the Kolkata Film Festival in India. In 2023 the film will continue its run in the United States where it will be presented at the prestigious South by Southwest in Austin, Texas (SXSW).
For Venezuelan filmmakers exile and migration have been a two-way street: on the one hand, it has allowed them to acquire experiences and learnings that have enriched their careers; on the other hand, it has led to the loss of identity and productivity of a national industry with more and more leakages.
In addition, the lack of institutions to support local filmmakers has been another obstacle to the development of this industry.
Venezuelan Cinema: Irony of Co-Productions and Denationalization
Venezuelan cinema faces an ironic reality: that of having to be produced in other countries. A recent example is the co-production of Jezabel by Hernán Jabes, between Venezuela and Mexico which recreates an uchronic post-Chavista Caracas and whose scenes were filmed in Mexico City.
El exorcismo de Dios, the highest-grossing film in Venezuelan cinema internationally, is also a co-production with Mexico and the United States where director Alejandro Hidalgo lives.
The director of Miki Maníaco, Carla Forte, lives in the United States, while John E. Robertson, of the documentary Crudo is based in Chile. Nico Manzano, director of Yo y las Bestias, the most awarded film of the 2022 Venezuelan Film Festival, is in Mexico. Similar situations are repeated with other renowned names such as Miguel Ferrari, Claudia Pinto Emperador or Marcel Rasquín.
Film critic Sergio Monsalve has observed that Venezuelan cinema is currently suffering a “denationalization” due to the exile or migration of its creators.
This phenomenon has allowed Venezuelan filmmakers to gain ground in international markets and enrich their careers but it has also led to the loss of identity and productivity of a national industry with more and more leaks.