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Hear Leonard Lopate's interview with Ms. Benacerraf on WNYC

Hear Howie Movshovitz's interview with Ms. Benacerraf NPR's Morning Edition

"Lyrical and commanding…Benacerraf communicates the weight of hundreds of years of uninterrupted tradition. After building up this sense of timelessness, the filmmaker then so perfectly portrays the violent suddenness of the shift toward machination upon “Araya”'s conclusion that she manages to inspire both joy and sorrow at once, a testament to the success of her eloquent and elegiac evocation."—Kristi Mitsuda, IndieWire

"Wonderfully restored… I can compare the film only to Luchino Visconti's great LA TERRA TREMA for its combination of extraordinary beauty, outraged social conscience and almost mythic grandeur... The experience was stunning in 1959. It's every bit as stunning today."—Stuart Klawans,THE NATION

"Majestic...Arresting...Overwhelming beauty!"Richard Brody, NEW YORKER MAGAZINE

"Thanks to Milestone Films' restoration of this semiforgotten 1959 cine-essay (a cowinner of the Fipresci Critics' Award at that year's Cannes), the movie's b&w images of craggy landscapes and shirtless young men have never looked more vibrant. A compadre of both Rossellini and Buñuel, Benacerraf has a knack for making neorealistic scenes of labor seem vaguely surreal (and vice versa)"David Fear,TIME OUT NEW YORK

BRILLIANT and HIGHBROW, "It promises to be one of the major film discoveries of recent years."—The Approval Matrix, NEW YORK MAGAZINE

"Not that the mesmerizing film, directed by Margot Benacerraf, looks 50 years old. In fact, it has a timeless look -- and that's a compliment… I'm not sure why it took 50 years for "Araya" to reach New York, but let us be thankful to Milestone Films for giving life to this forgotten film."V.A. Musetto,NEW YORK POST

"A lost treasure!"Matt Connolly,NEW YORK PRESS

"Araya resists categories, leans forward while looking back. Here past and future collapse, along with poetry and poverty, documentary and invention. Reimagined here, Araya is at once endless and utterly finite."Cynthia Fuchs,POPMATTERS

"It is better to consider the compact eighty-two minutes as visual biblical parable, an artfully artless triptych built on sacred-mystical threes. Sea, barren Earth, and merciless Sun; three villages, three families whose toils differ but overlap; pre-dawn through morning, midday for rest, and late day into darkness the following one."—Donald Levit ,REEL TALK

"After the recent successes of Killer of Sheep and The Exiles, the good folks at Milestone Films keep the re-discovery bonanza rolling… Araya is another stunningly photographed document of a singular culture."—Andrew Schenker,VILLAGE VOICE

"Many of its breathtaking images wouldn't feel out of place in an Antonioni or early Agnès Varda film."—Aaron Hillis,VILLAGE VOICE

"This mesmerizing, highly textured film from director Margot Benacerraf will surely now attain its place in the pantheon of important ethnographic documentaries. With the correct handling by Milestone Film & Video,Araya’s box-office should be excellent at art houses and beyond… A significant and memorable work"—Eric Monder,FILM JOURNAL

"What a pleasure it is to see ARAYA, the extraordinary, utterly gorgeous film by Margot Benacerraf!"—James van Maanen,TRUSTMOVIES.COM

4 stars "poetic, deeply meditative and engrossing... those who see it will be entranced."—Sara Schieron,BOX OFFICE MAGAZINE

Five Stars! "Araya is a singular achievement because of its poetic management of images."SLANT 

ABOUT.COM Interview with Margot

"So rich with sumptuous detail that you’ll often find yourself so engrossed that you’ll forget that those images are actually in black-and-white. At a running time of only 1 hour and 22 minutes, Araya manages to be a quietly powerful, lyrical and visually striking documentary."THE NYC MOVIE GURU

"At the 1959 film festival in Cannes the critics’ prize was shared between two films that approached the world of that time from diametrically opposed angles: One was Alain Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour the other was Araya. Salt has been harvested in the Araya lagoon in the northeastern part of Venezuela for centuries. Piled into enormous pyramids, it has become an integral part of the landscape. Those who don't toil in the saltworks, work in the fishing industry or are involved in one of the everyday routines that keep man alive. When you die in Araya, the grave is decorated with shells because flowers wouldn’t grow in the salty ground.

Araya is a breathtakingly photographed black and white film that enters into a mimetic relationship with the landscape and the human body. It can, however, also be seen as a physical tale about the forever unresolved contrast between lights and shadows, the observer and the observed, camera and subject. The salt serves as a mysterious intermediary: It gives the film its barren beauty and the contrast, which the salt's luminous white creates. It is also at once the livelihood and the burden of the people of Araya. The restoration of Margot Benacerraf's Araya after the original negative is a mimetic gesture in its own right, because, in a certain way, it is the salt that has conserved this film."
—Tobias Hering, freunde der deutschen kinemathek


“A film of supernatural beauty. At odds with the merchants of exoticism, and evidencing a great deal of heart, talent and loving patience, Margot Benacerraf has composed a great cinematographic ‘suite’ … Araya reminds us of Visconti’s great work because of its images, rhythm, gaze and personality.”
—René Gilson, Cinema


 “Don’t cut a single image.”
— Jean Renoir


Copyright © 2009 Milestone Films.