If there was any hope that after the death of Hugo Chavez things in Venezuela could get better, it now appears that things could not get any worse. One chaos after another, injustice, unlawful arrests, prosecution, execution and even poverty has become normal for the entire nation. However, Margarita Cadenas’ film poignantly captures the lives of five brave women belonging from different generations and background, whose only desire is to live a peaceful life with their loved ones that have been taken away.
During the Hot Docs 2018 that took place in Toronto, I was able to sit down with Margarita Cadenas who gladly talked about her film, real issues that occur in Venezuela and politics.
MOVIEMOVESME: What was the rationale behind your choice to pick women to tell your story?
Margarita Cadenas:Well because women, for me I wanted to have women and mothers. And when you have a woman that you follow, and a woman like Venezuela women, they are very active. They work, and they are not at home. They are active, working, and thinking. They have to take care of many, many things. And then I choose women because I knew that I was going to have a spectrum of a daily life. How to handle the situation with kids. How the food, the work. How they move to go to one place to another. For me, women was more complete. And then of course, is a question of sensibility also. If you look at my filmography, my films, women are the heroine. And I feel more connected maybe, and because I wanted to make an intimate film, and humanity I felt through women that was going to be more of what I wanted to achieve.
MOVIEMOVESME: What I found very interesting is not just the five women from diverse backgrounds. But also that there was one woman, Luisa, who is a retired police officer. It shows that no one is immune to what happens in the country; even if you’re a former cop. Was that the intention behind during that?
Margarita Cadenas: Yes, and then choosing five different women, different ages, different social backgrounds, different races. You see the film, all of them have a different color of skin, and then that means that you can have a picture of the population. And each of them is a topic. One is health, the other one is political prisoner, the other one fear, the other one injustice, and then the other one lack of food, shortage. But all of them, they suffer the same thing, is of course each of them for me is a topic. But all of them have the same problem, and it is in the different level of their society.
Because for instance, Maria Jose, she has the money to buy and to really make big stuff for the things that really worries her, but she doesn’t have war to. She has to organize her life, because she doesn’t have war to. But the most horrible thing for her is being fear, having fear to live in a country where criminality is so high. Because we have to realize that is one or the most dangerous city in the world. Venezuela has 30 million people die by homicides, criminality. We are not a country in war, but it’s like the country is in war. The situation is really terrible.
MOVIEMOVESME: Why do you think someone in, originally a very beautiful country like Venezuela, wants to bring distress that results in killing its own people and making them suffer?
Margarita Cadenas: Listen, this is a big, big, big, big discussion that we can have. Because, do you know some people say that it’s a plan. That is that was a political decision. For instance, before Chavez he arrive in power, he went to Cuba and Fidel Castro always wanted to have a hand in Venezuela, but he couldn’t in. He tried an invasion to Venezuela, but the Guerrilla was in it completely. And when Chavez arrived, Castro he took Chavez with him. And before being president, before being candidate he went to Cuba And he was open arms, red carpet and everything.
And Fidel he start to work with him in a plan, I think that is true. Because you hear in the speech that he made at that time in the 1997, he said that, “We need 40 years to destroy what is now to have the new country.” Do you know what I’m talking about? And that could be that, that is a possibility. There were possibilities also that Chavez, he arrive in power with very good intentions. But then, power, money, ego to be the leader of the socialism. The new leader, almost to be at the same level like Fidel Castro, and then corruption, and then everything. All these make that really they destroy the whole, they don’t care. They don’t really care about the population, they just care about power. And there are two versions. One, is let’s say very socialist to have a belief, and believe in something, and we have to construct like [inaudible 00:09:08] say, “The new man.” Or the other one more, the reality I would say. But at the same time, it’s the same thing. It’s destruction.
MOVIEMOVESME: It’s all about being paranoid not to lose power. And power is another tool of power, if you know how to manage people in poverty?
Margarita Cadenas: Of course, but listen, this morning I was in an interview and I said, “IF you have a country that people think about food, about medicine, how to survive, to take care of because you are afraid of getting killed or whatever. You don’t have the time to think. There is a power that you have in the population, and then why? Because they want to remain in power. If they don’t have this power, they are going to be persecuted, persecuted because they are criminals.” They are criminals, that is for me, it’s a crime to leave people die for lack of food, lack of medicine. To put a population in the situation that they are beggars. Well we are talking about politics, let’s talk about the film.
MOVIEMOVESME: One interesting fact was in the hospitals, where people are having to bring their own bedsheets and everything. You did a quite amazing job in bringing up such facts. So how did you manage to gather it together and also how did you run into these wonderful and strong women?
Margarita Cadenas: Well, the facts for me is easy. I’m from Venezuela. I live in France. Now we have this marvelous tool that is telephone, WhatsApp, we are connected all the time. My family live there, and I knew every day how the situation was getting worse since many years. Is now because the oil prices went down. That start in 2002 I would say, and at that moment when I felt so angry about the situation in Venezuela and I’d say, “I have to do something, it’s my responsibility.” And when I decided to make this film through the women eyes, I started to work to get to find them, and they were some in jails, and the old helmet to find these women, journalists, photographers, and then all the people around me. Asking them, and we combine 30 women, and then at the end we choose them.
MOVIEMOVESME: But how did you even convince them to stand in front of the camera? It’s quite risky, because surely they will watch the film, and then they will go after them.
Margarita Cadenas: Well the thing is, two of them they knew they were going to leave the country. And in the beginning, no one didn’t want to make the film, because they have fear, and they were, thank you. They were really worried about, because people they say, “What is this documentary for who?” And, “It’s going to be vital.” And then I have to convince them what was my plan, my plan was this film is not for Venezuela. This film is for foreign countries. I wanted to do it for France at the beginning, and then that was clear there was something. And then all of them they say, “Well we have to do it for Venezuela.” That was a sort of responsibility.
But that really took the more risk that was the nurse, and even the one in the lines, because they were spies. They have everything hidden on the microphones, everything. We were shooting people this morning, they ask me, “Ah yes when you have the steady cam shot.” And I think, “That is not a steady cam.” We use what we call the steady cam for poor people, that is the Osmo. And just a little, little camera, and well I convinced them because all of them I think were like me. We need to talk what is going on in Venezuela. The Government is in denial, that is something that I put in the film with all the news.
MOVIEMOVESME: With the medicine, and shortages, and everything, yeah.
Margarita Cadenas: Each of them has, and they are denying all the time the situation. They say that it’s not true, and even there are people that is a journalist in Copenhagen that said that, we should know what was my intention, mine as a film maker. Because maybe someone could think that this film, these women are actress, and the script was written by me from France.
MOVIEMOVESME: I watched the film twice because the first time when I saw it I was so drawn into the story. And then the second time and I watched it, I wanted to see the narrative. So what I found in your film is you found the right way to begin the film, and the narrative continues the same way. I would like you to talk about maybe how you structured that.
Margarita Cadenas: Okay, well I always say that when you are a filmmaker, and you make your film four times. To do it when you think about it, and you write the idea. That is the first time. The second time is when you shoot the film, because you don’t know how to soon. You have to arrange with the situation. Then there is the most important part is when you are editing the film. At that moment is really where you have the structure, the construction. You have your idea, but the rhythm how things come. And then at the end is when you put the beautiful scene. The music, the coloring and everything.
But for me in the beginning, my idea was try to have it to use the time of the day, let’s say nine in the morning, what each women does at that time. But then, when I was in the editing room I knew that it was impossible. And then I follow the way as I should the film. The film, the construction came as I shoot it. At the same time, and how I followed them, and like that. But, then there is another element is, that I wanted to have the space. The silence. The observation, and the only way to do that and to make the audience to connect with each person is to stay with them, and that’s why that became a core of the movie. Going from one to another.