I just experienced Reveron and Araya, the only two films made by Venezuelan director Margot Benecerraf. An amazing combination of poetry, music and images, they both are framed in the daily cycle of light to dramatize very different subjects. On the surface they are documentaries, Reveron about the life of a Venezuelan artist exploring light and form, and Araya about the daily struggle for survival by three families and three villages in a desert where the sea is the only source of life. Reveron is about the isolation of the artist who is absorbed in his pursuit of the limits of visual media to express light. Araya is about the interconnectedness of lives in a place where life is a daily struggle just to move from one day to the next. Woven into both films are soundtracks of narration and music that with the images create poetry. This, to me, is a perfect use of cinema to tell the story of people so that the audience feels the story, almost lives the story. There are no dramatic plot twists or epic conflicts, but both stories show heroic struggles of real people in a dramatic but simple manner using the real objects and locations of their lives. If you want to feel like you have been in another life at least for one day there is no other piece of art that will give you that experience more clearly than these films.
Even though the film Araya was essentially a documentary placed very strongly in a real setting, the images of men trudging up a mountain of salt, or children running to the top are surreal. The idea that people for hundreds of years worked like this scraping the bottom of the salt marsh to survive is an enormous idea with so many implications. In the end of the movie we see the advent of industrialization represented as a violent disruption to the slow trudging of centuries of laborious tradition. I am still trying to figure out what is lost and what gained when traditions of hundreds of years change and people take up a different path. How will their internal lives change? What is it like to live and work in one place at one job for your whole life? What are the thoughts and dreams of a person who lives a life like this? There is a song in the background running through much of the film. A man singing, high and haunting, about one of the villages. Everywhere people are there is culture to be found and lost in the dust and smoke of industry. Maybe we can keep some of the songs and have more people singing, and hopefully the new songs will not be drowned out by the machines of progress.