Once Upon a Time in Venezuela

Institute History

  • 2020 Sundance Film Festival


Once upon a time, the Venezuelan village of Congo Mirador, floating on stilts just inches above the deep Lake Maracaibo, was prosperous, alive with fishermen and poets. In recent years, it has decayed and disintegrated, rotting beneath pollution and neglect—a small but prophetic reflection of Venezuela itself.

At the center of the village’s existential fight for survival stand two female leaders—Mrs. Tamara, the Chavista government coordinator of the village, and Natalie, a vocal teacher and opponent of Mrs. Tamara and her state-approved practices of bribery and intimidation. As the contentious national elections approach, fear within the community extends beyond the partisan divide of Venezuelan politics; the villagers’ homes are quite literally vanishing into the sedimented water, displacing families with no means of surviving elsewhere.

Director Anabel Rodríguez Ríos’s striking and mournful ode to her country bears firsthand witness to the irreversible consequences of government corruption, while simultaneously capturing the resilient spirit of those most directly affected by Venezuela’s profound economic and political crises.

— H.V.

Screening Details

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