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Like I am Cuba, Killer of Sheep and The Exiles, Margot Benacerraf’s ARAYA lacks a conventional narrative. It is not a documentary. It is not a fictional film. It is a poetic suite that the director sculpts into a love story for a place, a culture and a time that has since been forever lost.

As a native Venezuelan, Margot Benacerraf wanted to avoid “Latin-American exoticism for export” in her filming of Araya. Her main goal was to express the human dignity and perseverance she found in the people of the region. Araya was compared to Nanook of the North, Que Viva Mexico, and Las Hurdes, but it should be noted that those films, no matter how brilliant, were a foreigner’s conception of the society portrayed. Araya was truly Venezuela’s first cinematic masterpiece and an attempt at expressing the culture from within 


Araya: a peninsula jutting into the Caribbean off northern Venezuela. One of the most barren regions in the world, where man depends entirely on the fruits of the sea: salt, fish.

Since its discovery by the Spaniards in 1500, the exploitation of Araya’s natural salt marshes had been done by hand. For centuries, this land remained one of the most lucrative destinations in the New World, where pirates and slave-dealers mingled with smugglers and pearl-traffickers. For those adventurers, Salt was a coveted object more precious than gold…

After this splendid period, Araya became isolated in obscurity. 

The story by Margot Benacerraf takes place over twenty-four hours, one full day in Araya. One day repeating like so many others had for the past 450 years.

But under Benacerraf’s gaze, these twenty-four hours in the lives of the salt workers (salineros) take on a peculiar dimension. The film, from its first images, submerges the viewer into a universe of rare beauty: where life is born of the sky and the sea, where nature is created and recreated in endless and ever renewed movement.

It is a landscape ravaged by corrosion. A barren earth whipped by the wind and scorched by an implacable, brutal light.

This is Araya. Human beings and animals cling to the soil and perpetuate. The film, a fresco, unveils three villages and three ways of life that intermingle and complement each other. The simplest gestures, as the hours while away, are filled with an exceptional resonance. 

Twenty-four hours that have lasted 450 years, twenty-four hours repeated endlessly for the people of Araya, until the day when… 

“Araya avoids conventional anecdotes and facile exoticism. It is man persevering under the most taxing circumstances.” — Margot Benacerraf


Copyright © 2009 Milestone Films.