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DOC NYC 2020: “A La Calle” Film Review – A Thorough and Important Look at Venezuela’s Political Landscape

Venezuela is hungry. The corrupt dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro has worsened the country’s economic collapse and brought an overwhelming wave of poverty with it. People roam in the trash looking for food, families struggle to feed their children and doctors are in desperate need for medicine. Protest seems to be the only solution, so thousands of people have taken to the Venezuelan streets to fight for a better future. “A La Calle” documents their courageous efforts in the middle of a turbulent and dangerous landscape.

Directors Nelson G. Navarrete and Maxx Caicedo try to explain the crisis through the accounts of ordinary Venezuelan citizens as well as some of the key political figures in the conflict. United, their testimonies create a powerful tale of desperation and activism.

Photo credit: Priority Pictures/Roman Camacho

We get to know Randal and Carla, a humble couple that can barely afford food for their young daughter; he’s a barber who, on occasions, is forced to barter haircuts for food. He has a diabetic cousin whose life is in grave danger due to the high costs of insulin. Their story is a glimpse into the impoverished way of life in the country.

Then we have Federica, a medical student and co-founder of Green Cross, a first aid organization whose help is very important during many of the mass street protests. She explains the lack of opportunities in the country and the decrease in education quality caused by the migration of teachers.

Nixon is a young activist whose mother cannot even afford butter. He recalls his experience as a tortured prisoner at the hands of the dictatorship. The directors cleverly use animation to illustrate his testimony.

Leopoldo López opposed Maduro’s regime in 2014. He organized peaceful protests but was imprisoned by the government under the charges of inciting violence through “subliminal messages.” Her wife tries to gather the attention of international media to free him.

The editing masterfully intertwines the story of these figures with economic explanations, international news clips and footage of at least a dozen protests; the guerrilla style shooting gives us a terrifying frontline access into the oppression suffered by the brave people fighting for their rights. There’s blood, beatings and some very tough imagery.

Along the way, Navarrete and Caicedo briefly explain the evolution of the economic crash by going all the way back to the 1998 election of Hugo Chávez. Then we get to see Maduro’s dirty tactics to remain in power, from violent suppression of social movements to fraudulent elections. Finally, we experience the rise of interim president Juan Guaidó and the strategic movements to get the army on his side.

Photo credit: Reuters Images/Jorge Silva

If you are disconnected from Latin American politics, this documentary is a must-see, because it’ll provide you with an excellent account of a humanitarian crisis that needs to be heard by as many ears as possible. “A La Calle” is a thorough and comprehensive summary of a country’s struggle to survive. A protester said it best: “In Venezuela we don’t live. In Venezuela we survive.” Like many others, hunger and injustice has led her to go out to the streets and fight for herself, her family, children and future.

“A La Calle” had its World Premiere at DOC NYC 2020 and will have online screenings from November 11 to 19. The festival will also host a free panel titled “A La Calle | Why We Should Care About Venezuela” on Sunday, November 15 on their Facebook page. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram for more coverage of the festival.

Featured image credit: Reuters Images/Jorge Silva

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