Jason Talks Movies and Riots with his Venezuelan Friend
Recently, there has been a lot of news coverage on the country of Venezuela and the riots taking place within its borders. I was interested in seeing how the insurmountable violence and widespread fear has affected the movie industry over there, so I asked my friend David who lives in Venezuela if he could give me all the deets.
Me: Hi David! How are you?
David: I’m fine, thanks. How you doin?
Me: I’m fantastic, it’s always a pleasure getting to chat with you. Before we start, can you describe our existing relationship so that our readers know how tight we are?
David: We’re super tight. We met on an Avatar forum (not the blue ones, I mean, please) and since then our nerdship has kept us together. Although, I think we talked more since you were invited to the Skype chat.
On the Left: Super socially competent teenage Jason Gong
On the Right: Jason’s longtime Air-Friender David
Me: Haha, yes, we’ve had some good times. We even have that picture of us and the other Skype group members drawn like Adventure Time characters where I have my shirt off.
David: That’s because the artist knows how to portray people’s best assets into their stuff. And obviously, yours is just your torso.
Me: Thanks, David.
Me: So, recently I’ve been hearing a lot in the news about riots and violence in Venezuela, and that got me thinking “Hey, how has all that violence affected the movie scene over there?” And then I was like, “David lives over there.” So can you tell me a little bit about that?
David: Your observation skills are outstanding, Jason. Well, depends with what you mean with ‘that’. Venezuelan movies have always had a touch of the social crime and violence that we’ve fallen into ever since ’99, with our older movies touching more the local politics and just general genres. The industry, though, has experienced a rebirth thanks to a Government program that promoted national talents. Literally one of the few good things they’ve done.
Riots have mainly affected our way of life and they’re nothing new. They’ve happened for ages now, but they’re only getting international attention as of this year.
Me: So the positive changes in the movie industry are being made by the existing government? Then why are people trying to overthrow them?
David: Right, because what makes a government good is the fact that let you make movies. Come on, Jason.
It’s mostly because every 21 minutes a Venezuelan dies. It’s not even an exaggeration, I wish I could show you pictures of every single newspaper headline because they always start with “-Number- people found dead”. Not to mention the fact that local businesses have been attacked endlessly the way American republicans like to think happens to them.
Every single industry of ours has plummeted. We used to make our own food, now we import nearly everything. Our economy is so bad that we can’t afford a meal on minimum wage. The government helps those who think like them and vote for them, no one else. And that’s just scratching the surface. I’m sure you don’t know what it’s like to not be able to walk around your city after 6 PM because you’re sure to get mugged or kidnapped or murdered.
In fact, let’s relate that to one of the most famous Venezuelan movies, which almost made it to the Oscars. It’s called Secuestro Express and it’s about how kidnappings work in Caracas. Basically, this lady is out with her boyfriend buying something at a pharmacy and then she gets kidnapped and it’s hell from that point on. She gets beaten, almost raped (if not raped, I didn’t really finish watching it because it was mildly triggering for me) and it all happened in the span of 12 hours. This movie was in no way fictional, it was a real account of what millions of Venezuelans fear and go through every day.
Me: Wow, that is really heavy. You must be very brave to endure that.
David: I guess so, I mean, I was born in ’94. It’s all I know.
Me: So are you rooting for a revolution?
David: The word ‘revolution’ is tainted here. I’m rooting for a coup d’etat.
Me: Can you describe what that means? Like, I know what it means, but I want to know what you think it means, and for like my readers and stuff.
David: It’s not the meaning, it’s just that the actual government likes to call what they’re doing a ‘socialist revolution’ Or a Bolivarian Revolution. And it just has a bad taste now.
Me: So what are the rebels doing, exactly?
David: Don’t call us rebels, I mean, that really is not what’s going on here. The people protesting are students. University students. My friends are out there and so are family members. Because these protests are happening all across the country and all the opposition leaders have been sent to jail or are simply not showing their faces, there’s really no union other than ‘don’t stop going out to the streets’.We’ve set up barricades in main roads, placed chairs in the street representing the dead Venezuelans.It’s been a heavy month for us, but we’re not stopping any time soon.
Me: That’s pretty badass
David: Thanks, I guess.
Me: [[I'm sorry that I am playing such a stupid character, David]]
David: [[It's ok, I know you're better than this]]
Me: Do you think movies will get better or worse if the Coup D’etat is successful?
David: I think movies will stop coming out for a while, haha. Life still goes on for many of us, I’m still going to school and recently the first animated venezuelan movie came out (utter shit though, but that was to be expected). But, really, if the coup happens and it works, I think more protests will happen. Venezuela has a long way to go before it’s finally up and running again, we have still so much to learn from our history and we just don’t want to see that.
What I’m hoping for is to go back to pre-Chavez era. Up until that guy, we’ve had our longest democracy run. Only 40 years and then, boom, the unsuccessful Chavez coup of 1992 and that resulted in him getting elected in 1999.
Me: Can you go into a little more detail about the current Venezuelan movie revolution and how the current government is aiding (and/or) deterring it?
David: Wow, I seriously shudder at the word ‘revolution’, talk about mind terrorism.
It’s mostly the fact that we have Venezuelan movies in our cinemas. Not just American movies anymore, and that was like a huge breath of fresh air.
I remember it began with Hora Cero and Hermano, both movies talking about life in the barrios but from a very different take. Hora Cero is about a very unpopular vigilante and Hermano is about two brothers living in Petare who wanted to be soccer stars, but the barrio life got to them.
Lately we’ve been experimenting with different genres. Recently we made a horror movie called La Casa del Fin de los Timpos (The House of the end of Time) and it was very intense and very well made.
We also touched a more taboo topic, so to speak, with Azul y No Tan Rosa (Blue and not so Pink). This is a Latin American country, and this region isn’t famous for being progressive. This movie talked about homosexuality and transgender issues and the main character was a gay man.
I was surprised to see something portray this situation in such an honest and touching way and more importantly. PEOPLE WEREN’T MAKING FUN OF IT. Like wow. We’ve come so far as a nation.
Me: That’s amazing. People still make jokes about Brokeback Mountain in America.
David: Here we use the equivalent of the word ‘faggot’ as a way to say ‘friend’. So really, I was MEGA surprised to see people take it with maturity and respect.
Me: Can you tell me a little about how mainstream western movies are released in Venezuela? Is there any censorship or anything?
David: Yes, I don’t think I’ve seen any Paramount movies get here in a while, but I might be wrong. Other than that, your comedies don’t tend to last long and most movies get dubbed by Mexicans, so it’s a pain.
Me: Wait, did you at least see Iron Man 3?
David: Nope. Or Iron Man, or Iron Man 2.
Me: THE GOVERNMENT DIDN’T LET YOU SEE ANY OF THE IRON MANS?
David: My lazy butt didn’t let me see any of the Iron Mans.
David: They were here, I just… Didn’t want to. I mean, I watched the Avengers, I thought that was enough.
Me: Did the government let you watch Avatar: The Legend of Korra season 2?
David: I did that with the internet because the dub is absolutely abysmal and it hurts my ears.
Me: Do you think the government is to blame for the bad dubs of movies and television?
David: Are you serious right now, man… No, that’s Nick[elodeon]‘s fault.
As for national T.V, hell yeah it’s their fault. They’ve closed channels and censored the news until they couldn’t do it anymore. And they’re still doing it. I get the news from Tumblr and Twitter. And Twitter is blocked here.
Me: Dang, you are missing out on my hilarious tweets
David: There’s nothing hilarious about your tweets, I know that for a fact.
Me: Can you tell me a little more about Venezuelan television?
David: Well, here we have a huge soap opera (we call them novelas) culture. We looooooove our daytime T.V. And the real good ones get a spot at night. Heck, even I love novelas if they’re good enough.
Me: That sounds pretty cool
David: Yeah, I remember this really good one… Cosita Rica. Damn, it caused quite the impression on everyone. It was the perfect touch of drama, romance, and POLITICAL TURMOIL. Kinda like Por Estas Calles (On these streets). But now they’re not like that. Now it’s obvious that they’re made with the intention of distracting the public of real issues.
Me: Any final thoughts?
David: I don’t really have much to say about what’s going on here other than it’s hell. But we’re gonna get out of it, I mean, we’ve managed all these years and now you’re gonna see how we will rise to our feet again. As for the movie industry in Venezuela, I really expect it to get better. I mean, there’s so much talent out of the country and once things get better here they might even come back. I want to be an animator and work at Pixar but I know that if I ever get the chance to actually have a career here, I will come back.