Araya finally on DVD

May 29, 2011

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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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