Panel 19, July 27, 2010, 9:00 am-10:30 am
Moderator: David S. Nolen, Mississippi State University
Presenter: Christopher Moore (Film Maker)
Rapporteur: Sarah A. Buck Kachaluba, Florida State University
This session was a screening of the film Moving Pictures o Los Autos de Caracas. The filmmaker was present and available for additional conversation and questions after the screening, but the screening took up all the time allotted. This film was a sequel to an earlier film, done in 2006, when Moore and two fellow undergraduate students at Trinity College went to Venezuela to interview people with different perspectives on Hugo Chávez. At this time, the country was quite polarized. Moving Pictures o Los Autos de Caracas, filmed in 2010, brought the three back to the same five regions, to reconnect with the same people.
Moving Pictures o Los Autos de Caracas, a title which refers to modes of transportation (and the importance of oil in Venezuela’s history, contemporary society and political-economy) as well as the process of self-identity construction, provides a fascinating look at Venezuela’s recent political and social history. The film’s inclusion of very different viewpoints (provided through interviews and accompanying film footage), culminated in a remarkably balanced perspective.
Those interviewed included individuals at Chávez’s campaign headquarters as well as people representing opposition parties; residents of an Amazonian village, an urban barrio constructed on a hill, and a town on the shores of Lake Maracaibo, that has sunk because of all the holes poked in the lake to extract oil. Each case provided unique insight into the inner-workings of Venezuela’s political-economy and society. For example, the government’s efforts to build a retaining wall and then build houses in a different location to remedy the dislocation of those living in the Maracaibo community were limited because out of 400 homes, only 8 people from the original community were living there. Other homes had been invaded by people with connections to the contractors who built them. Others questioned Chávez’s so-called “Socialist” orientation, arguing that if anything, people are becoming increasingly selfish and privatization is on the rise. For example, one member of another community explained that people used to share all of their food but this was no longer the case. Such personal testimonies were supplemented by interviews with Venezuelan and North American academics who explained, among other things, that Chávez’s administration made top-down decisions intended to serve the interests of the poor, but allowing for all to have a voice in the process was not a priority. In short, this was a compelling and fascinating look at contemporary Venezuela.