‘La Soledad’: A Father’s Treasure Hunt to Save His Family

Cinema Politica’s Presents Poetic Exploration of Faith and Struggle in Venezuela’s Political Climate

  • ‘La Soledad’ is Jorge Thielen Armand’s debut feature film, and was named after the beautiful, decaying mansion in which the protagonists live. Courtesy Cesar Michelangeli

On Nov. 4, Cinema Politica screened La Soledad. This one was a contemplative look into the daily life of a marginalized Venezualian family.

Cinema Politica originated out of Concordia University in 2003. Today, the non-profit exhibition and distribution network screens independent political documentaries across the world.

The evening consisted of a screening of La Soledad, an 89 minute feature film directed by Jorge Thielen Armand, which exposes the impact of Venezuela’s increasingly worsening socio political crisis.

La Soledad is Armand’s debut feature film, and was named after the beautiful, decaying mansion in which the protagonists live. The film tells the story of a struggling father, José “El Negro,” who learns that his family’s home is destined for demolition at any time.

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In fear of homelessness, José digs into the house’s past and finds out that the spirit of a previous slave is rumoured to be guarding gold, buried in an unknown location within the house.

In a society ruled by crime, he dismisses the many offers to join kidnappers, and embarks on a mystical treasure hunt.

“I wanted to talk about the ways in which Venezuelans and many Latin Americans use these beliefs, whether its religion or magic, […] as a way to escape this very harsh reality.” — Jorge Thielen Armand

In contrast to the vivid cinematography, there is a deeply lethargic and spiritual essence to the film, which was almost entirely shot between the cracked walls and peeling ceilings of La Soledad.

The film shows the father’s way of coping with creeping despair, with the guidance of ancient spirits.

“I wanted to talk about the ways in which Venezuelans and many Latin Americans use these beliefs, whether its religion or magic, […] as a way to escape this very harsh reality,” said Armand on stage after the screening.

The film has no voice-over narration and background music, replacing it instead with the environment’s natural soundscape.

This, paired with prolonged shots of the overgrown vegetation, led to a realistic and contemplative look onto the debilitating issues surrounding the Venezualian family.

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“I wanted to also capture this spiritual world that I experienced in a very real way, since I was a kid in the house,” said Armand.

The film is a hybrid of documentary and fiction. The mansion is the director’s real family-owned house, and the actors represented themselves as the authentic occupants of La Soledad.

Thanks to their exceptionally veristic performances, the lines were blurred as to what was scripted and what was real.

At some point in the movie, Adrializ, the young daughter, told her father that she wanted milk in her cereal bowl. In response, he said the cows went on vacation.

In the film, the father visited every pharmacy and street merchant, yet still couldn’t find hypertension pills for his ill grandmother. Courtesy Daniel Benaim

The heartbreaking scene, paired with a shot of an empty grocery store shelf, showed the harsh reality on the economic decline in Venezuela. Later in the film, the father visited every pharmacy and street merchant, yet still couldn’t find hypertension pills for his ill grandmother.

“I think my role as a filmmaker is not to give an explanation as to what’s happening. I’m not a political expert,” said Armand. “But what I do know is how this crisis affects people, and so I wanted to focus on that.”

The theme of disintegrating family was also explored within the movie. As the grandmother got weaker, Adrializ’ mother, Marley, announced her departure to Colombia to find work. The ending scene showed the family enjoying a golden sand beach on a sunny day.

La Soledad is about trying to stay together amidst the hardships of poverty.

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After watching the movie for the first time in the past two years, and after returning from a seven-month stay in Venezuela, Armand added that the situation in his home country is far worse today.

The director told the audience that although it is now easier to find products, sky-rocketing inflation makes them out of reach for “99 per cent of people.” More than half of the people he made the movie with have left the country, he added.

Check out Cinema Politica’s website for more information.

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