Araya finally on DVD

May 29, 2011


In 1959 Venezuelan director Margot Benacerraf’s Araya shared the Cannes Film Festival’s International Critics Prize with Alain RenaisHiroshima, Mon Amour but she never secured a distribution deal and the movie slipped into obscurity until it was rescued by the superheroes of cinema at Milestone – who previously rescued Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep, Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba and Kent MacKenzie’s The Exiles from obscurity.

And Araya is certainly worth the rescue effort; it’s a sui generis cine-essay, a kind of tone poem, about a day in the life of salt miners in the Venezuelan peninsula of Araya, a place where life is grindingly monotonous and hasn’t changed in 500 years.Benacerraf follows three families – the Peredas family, who work through the night in the salt marshes; the fishermen of the Ortiz family; and the Salaz clan, who work days as “salineros,” collecting salt.

A slow, contemplative film without a lot of narration, Araya is a documentary that aspires to the highest kind of cinematic art, a marriage of sound and vision, a beautiful moving painting.

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