(IPS) – A Venezuelan movie about a young deaf woman who is sexually abused by her stepfather, “Brecha en el silencio” (Breach in the Silence), took top prize at the second Colombia-Venezuela film festival.
Twelve feature-length and 10 short films were screened at the May 13-16 festival, held in the border cities of Cúcuta in northeastern Colombia and San Cristóbal in western Venezuela.
The festival is aimed at promoting each nation’s films in the neighbouring country, especially in border areas, and at getting nationally-made films to focus more on Latin American audiences and matters of interest to them.
The binational jury gave first prize to the film by brothers Luis and Andrés Rodríguez because it was “the best film presented, area by area, due to…the original approach to the subject, the screenplay, and the noteworthy acting,” one of the jury members, Venezuelan filmmaker Rodolfo Cova, told IPS.
In the first edition of the festival held in 2012 in this border area crossed by the Andes mountains, first prize went to the Colombian film “Todos tus muertos” (All Your Dead Ones) by Carlos Moreno, about the political violence plaguing the poor rural population in the civil war-torn country.
This time, the prize went to a Venezuelan film, “not because of a principle of rotation, but because the jury analysed what it found to be the best film, just like a festival on music would select a bolero regardless of whether it came from Puerto Rico or Cuba,” another of the jury members, Colombian director and screenwriter Jorge Navas, told IPS.
While their film was winning the prize in San Cristóbal, the Rodríguez brothers, prolific documentary-makers who made their first incursion into the world of fiction with Brecha en el silencio, working as a team filming and directing, were presenting the movie at the Latin American Film Festival in Utrecht, Netherlands.
The film has won nearly a dozen prizes so far, in festivals in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Egypt, and is showing at the Seattle International Film Festival, which kicked off Thursday May 16.
The Rodríguez brothers, “by combining a social focus with filmmaking, show the question of sexual abuse as part of the reality of Latin American poverty, and as something that should be talked about so the victims can find a way to free themselves,” Rafael Pinto, one of the film’s screenwriters along with the two brothers, commented to IPS.
In the film, 19-year-old Ana (Vanessa Di Quattro), who is deaf, takes care of her younger sister and brother in one of Caracas’s poor barrios. She does not know how to read or write, and creates her own language to communicate. She hands her weekly earnings as a textile worker over to her mother Julia, who works with her.
When Julia’s violent machista husband, who works off and on as a mechanic, tries to continue the saga of abuse against his younger stepchildren, Ana makes a decision that changes the lives of the entire family.
Di Quattro, born to a Colombian mother and an Italian father in a poor Caracas neighbourhood 26 years ago, was awarded the prize for best actress at the Colombia-Venezuela festival.
Best actor went to Gustavo Angarita for his performance in the Colombian film “Sofía y el terco” (Sofía and the Stubborn Man) by Andrés Burgos – the film that won the audience award in the Colombia-Venezuela festival, just as it had at the Biarritz International Festival of Latin American Cinema in September 2012 in southern France.
In “Sofía y el terco”, Spanish actress Carmen Maura plays a 75-year-old woman who lives in a small mountain village in Colombia and whose husband’s promise to take her to the Caribbean Sea has been postponed over and over again. Finally, she decides to make her dream of seeing the sea come true on her own, and life takes on a whole new dimension along the way.
The film is “about the struggle of women to be heard,” Burgos, who adapted a novel he was writing to a screenplay, told IPS. “It’s not your traditional film, which is why we weren’t interested in sticking to the realism of a concrete Colombian town or landscape.”
The prizes for best debut film and best screenplay went to “La Playa D.C.” by Colombian filmmaker Juan Andrés Arango, with the story of Tomás (Luis Carlos Guevara), a young black man who leaves his hometown on the Pacific coast to forge a new life for himself in Bogotá.
“Like in the case of ‘Sofía y el Terco’, ‘La Playa D.C.’ uses short, unconventional, innovative scripts that are very different from commercial films, but with strongly expressive story lines,” Nava said.
The jury also chose a Colombian film to recommend for exhibition in commercial theatres in Venezuela and a Venezuelan film to be shown in Colombia.
These were the thriller “La cara oculta” (The Hidden Face) by Colombian filmmaker Andrés Baiz, the top box-office earning nationally-produced film in Colombia last year, and “El rumor de las piedras” (Rumble of the Stones) a portrait of poverty and violence in Caracas, by Venezuelan filmmaker Alejandro Bellame.
An average of 15 to 20 films are produced every year in both Colombia and Venezuela. But regardless of the commercial success achieved by some films, they are practically unknown in the neighbouring country – something the festival was set up to counteract.
It is difficult for films from either country to recoup their production costs. In Venezuela, a country of 29 million people, ”making a film can cost nine or 10 million bolivars (1.5 million dollars), and to recover that amount it would have to be seen by 12 million people, which isn’t feasible,” Cova said.
In Colombia, according to Burgos, “there are two tendencies: making commercial films, like in the case of ‘El Cartel de los Sapos’ (The Snitch Cartel – a narco crime film that followed a popular TV series and was also seen at this week’s festival), or scrambling to find the funds for making films in genres with a poor box-office performance.”
Both countries have laws to bolster national filmmaking by committing state resources to supporting the industry and ensuring that commercial theatres show local productions as well as the standard Hollywood fare.
In Venezuela, the state provides most of the funds that national filmmakers need to produce a feature-length film. And the Villa del Cine and Amazonia, a state-owned film studio and distributor, respectively, were created in 2006.
In Colombia, the state holds open competitions that award up to 400,000 dollars in funds for film production, and grants tax exemptions to encourage the participation of private companies or foment co-productions like ‘Sofia y el terco’, which also involved Peru.