A La Calle


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

A La Calle
"Caicedo and Navarrete (likely to be permanently exiled from his Venezuelan homeland as a result of this) show admirable courage under fire to shoot footage of demonstrations against the regime." | Photo: Priority Pictures/David Mosquera

As the title of this documentary from Maxx Caicedo and Nelson G Navarrete suggests, the pair get down to street level to consider the mix of politics and protest currently affecting Venezuelan society. In contrast to the single community consideration of Once Upon A Time In Venezuela - which is also screening as part of DOC NYC - here the directors are trying to give a more panoramic view of the issues, offering an array of voices, from medics to opposition leaders and blue collar workers.

A potted history of recent Venezuelan politics is stitched through the film - although, like much here, it could do with a tighter focus - but it basically emphasises the economic crisis in the country that has worsened under Hugo Chávez's successor Nicolás Maduro, exacerbated by his refusal to acknowledge the deep problems his country faces or to accept international aid. This crisis is at the heart of the film, as the hyperinflation experienced in Venezuela is evidenced by the rucksacks full of cash that need to be exchanged even for the most basic of foods.

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Hunger, one interviewee says, has become a driving force for political protest, while others talk of the struggle to feed their families in the face of a crisis, which unsurprisingly, affects the poorest in society the hardest as they are most likely to have to complete their transactions with physical cash rather than via the bank. The film also outlines the medical shortages - along with their devastating impact on individuals with chronic illness. The healthcare aspect of the film is brought into focus through the work of - and interviews with - one of the young founders of Verde Cruz (Green Cross) a medical collective who attempt to patch up protestors hurt in the increasingly violent anti-Maduro demos.

In a second strand of the film, the directors also follow opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who spent time as a political prisoner and is under house arrest for most of the film and Juan Guaidó, the "acting president" of Venezuela and his tussle with Maduro for power. This dovetails with the story of grassroots activist Nixon Leal, who was also imprisoned and tortured by the regime and whose recollection of his time in jail is brought forcefully home by the use of a strong animated sequence. Notably, the filmmakers also find room to include the views of those who support Chavez and, by extension Maduro, which gives an idea of the strength of feeling that the opposition in the country are up against.

Caicedo and Navarrete (likely to be permanently exiled from his Venezuelan homeland as a result of this) show admirable courage under fire to shoot footage of demonstrations against the regime, capturing the way that repressive tactics from the government forces lead peaceful protests to turn bloody. They also give a sense of the way Maduro has used the population's own desperation as a tool to retain power - wielding food handouts as a voter manipulation device.

Their enthusiasm to include so much in the film, however, does work against it to a degree, as there are points where things become very fragmented. A little less protest footage and a little more cohesion in terms of the interview presentation would help the film's structure enormously as the dipping in and out of various stories means the timeline becomes tricky to follow in places. Nevertheless, the film brings home the panoply of problems facing Venezuela, while making no bones about the further detrimental impact Maduro is having on the situation. It stands as both a testimony to the determination of many ordinary Venezuelans to change the tack of their country, while also attempting to spur the conscience of other nations to stand in solidarity with those who want change.

Reviewed on: 16 Nov 2020
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Capturing the spirit of resistance and protest in Venezuela

Director: Maxx Caicedo, Nelson G Navarrete

Year: 2021

Runtime: 110 minutes

Country: US


DOC NYC 2020

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