michael gallucci

MOVIE REVIEW — ARAYA

In Uncategorized on 01/13/2010 at 8:48 am



This Venezuelan documentary, unreleased in the U.S. for 50 years, plays like a meditation on the history of an ancient land populated by poor salt miners and fishermen. There are many gorgeous black-and-white images here: Director Margot Benacerraf shoots in close-up and from the ground up. Occasionally she peers at the workers from above, viewing them as an army of ants, methodically and ritualistically delivering their bounty to the mountains of “white gold.” There are also some soothing sounds, as miners silently push their boats out to the gently waving sea. But the over-poetic narration (“Salt and sweat, sweat and salt, until the end of time”) is often intrusive; Araya says plenty without the nonstop voiceover (does the narrator really need to tell us a dozen times that everything the villagers eat comes from the sea?). You’ll learn a few things – conquistadors paid their soldiers in salt! – even if we never quite figure out where the salt comes from before the miners pull it from the sea and where it goes after they pile it up on the shore. Mostly, though, you’ll be awestruck by the elegant, tranquil images of a land and people that haven’t changed much since time began. Michael Gallucci

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