Libertador movie makes Oscar shortlist


Libertador3_foto_Teresa-Isasi_990Looks like the central government will have something to celebrate these days, as the Simon Bolivar biopic “Libertador” made the shortlist of nine films for the Best Film in a Foreign Language category in the upcoming 87th Academy Awards. It’s the first time ever for a Venezuelan film.

But it still has to wait until January 15th to know if it make the final five. Another Latin American film, Argentina’s “Wild Tales” also made the cut.

For the record, the movie has made only a little over 100,000 dollars in the U.S. and even if it was successful here, it won’t recover the 50 million dollars it cost, making it the most expensive Venezuelan movie ever.

Congratulations to the director Alberto Arvelo and the rest of the film’s cast and crew. But I have a piece of advice to Mr. Arvelo: There’s a couple of guys pushing your movie publicly. If I was you, I would ask them to keep it lowkey.

P.S.: For those who’re curious, here’s how this works: Every country selects a film to represent them at the Oscar. Then, a committee of L.A.-based voters sees every film (a record 83 this year) and select this shortlist of nine. Now, this goes into a larger committee that also include voters from NYC and London. They will select the five nominees. The entire Academy membership (5,783) will select the final winner to be announced on Sunday, February 22nd.

And I can tell you this about Oscar races today: PR campaigns matter. Sometimes more than the movies themselves.

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  1. Prepare to be bombed a gazillion times a day with the “oscar by the corpse’s sake and grace” headline to attempt to cover the crapsack place Venezuela has become thanks to castro and the corpse.

  2. Venezuelans’ perennial infatuation with the dictator cum slave-owner Simon Bolivar is something I’ll never understand. I don’t think it’s limited to the chavistas.

    • Every culture is built upon a foundation of symbols, shared myths, and heroic stories. I don’t share in the idolization of Bolivar because I wasn’t born and raised here, and wasn’t raised on these stories. But, we can see that even well-educated people are not immune, just as I am not immune to feeling an unseemly pride in the accomplishments of the American Founding Fathers, despite the historical fact that they were a collection of ordinary men with all the ordinary flaws. Despite whatever failings he might have had, Simon Bolivar and his role in the independence of Venezuela and Colombia of has become the embodiment of Venezuelan national pride. It would be a gross error to try and take that away from Venezuelans.

      • ” It would be a gross error to try and take that away from Venezuelans.”
        Why? Germans are not currently praising all the time Otto I or Otto II, they are not seeing Bismarck as their great Father nor are they doing that with any of the Prussian kings. Thanks God they are over that now.
        They talk about those individuals with all the faults and merits.

        The same goes for, I would say, Canadians and many other nationalities. I really don’t see how the US American pride can help us much. Patriotism has been pretty lethal for a lot of people.

        We can have a strong, very strong commitment to a country without having to follow those mental myths anymore. And the myths surrounding Bolívar and other such figures are inversely proportional to the knowledge about world and (real national) world history.

          • I had to go to Wikipedia to find out who on Earth he was. Sorry, but if you want world projection, you need to promote Mike Myers. Hockey is not a world sports, even if it is also popular in the Czech Republic 🙂

          • We weren’t talking about world projection. We were talking about praising national heroes. Canadians hardly talk about the “fathers of confederation” but everybody, every night, every generation talks hockey!
            Gretzky, Orr, Howe, Lemieux, are names everybody know.
            Talking about sports’ heroes, Carl Herrera got shot after being robbed in Margarita, they approached him to ask him for an autograph. That’s the patria of Bolivar nowadays.

          • Right. I’ll ask ten random Germans and Swiss and Belgians something about ice hockey.
            I get what Carolina is saying, but seriously: don’t think because sport X is played in any of those countries on the Wikipedia list it is anything more than one among a lot of sports…and most people, if at at, pay attention to one or two sports…if

          • Ask random russians, finnish, swedish and even austrians!
            My point is about heros. There are no heroic-caudillo-like, war winning characters in canadian history that I can think of.
            If you ask any canadian about heroic people, you might get hockey players first (lol) and then people like this guy:


            In any case Kep, you know that when it comes to the Bolivar we know today, he is nothing else that a commercial product, created by Paez, and mass distributed by Juan Vicente Gomez. Perhaps what we need right now is more debunking in history classes in the schools.

          • According to polls 9% of germans are interested in Ice Hockey. And I would say its the second most visible sport in fan support. Ice Hockey World Cup, which takes place every year, had TV live coverage even back in the 70ties and 80ties, when there were only 3 channels. There is certain stagnation in public interest, though, which be due to the fact that our team tends to loose 1:7 against the big teams, the other way around than in football.
            In Switzerland Ice Hockey got much bigger than in Germany. Their youth promotion programs for Hockey worked very well and their national team became second in the 2013 World Cup. The swiss hockey league attract as many spectators as their football league.
            I guess in Austria its comparable to Germany.
            In Belgium and the Netherlands its there for many years, but to a smaller scale. Belgium has a national league since 1912. It should have some potential, as speed scating is very popular at least in the Netherlands. It never really took off, though.

      • No, i wouldnt be a gross error to vanish Bolivar (a thug, a dictator and a coward) from public knowledge.

        We should trascend soldiers born two centuries ago, they are not relevant in modern issues nor represent a credible criteria source to solve them.

      • Sorry, but you can compare Bolivar vision of the state, society and warfare experience with Hamilton, Washington or Jefferson (also that’s another point, there are founders here is one “liberator” with an undefined mindset)

      • Interesting rebuttals to my comment…

        However, if you really want to eliminate Bolivar as a symbol, then you had better have something to replace it with.

          • Funny… No.

            Like the “Heroes of the Resistance Against Castro-Communism” or some such. You don’t have to invent the narrative now. It can be written after the dust settles. Hell, depending on how Chavismo collapses, the new narrative may write itself. Or, you can polish up the tarnished Libertador narrative. Either way, you need something. Venezuelans are not ready rally around purely abstract concepts.

      • I grew up in Veneuela the Bolivar cult (which preceded Chavez and was in all out histerical mode in 1983) always was a turn off for me (even as a child).

  3. Ahistorical and ideologically driven as it is, “El Libertador” can at least claim to be artistically a cut above another manipulated biopic about a national hero that won Best Picture and Best Director in 1995. Mel Gibson’s embarrassingly dreadful “Braveheart” is testimony to the depths to which the Academy can sink on occasion. I’ve no idea of the strength of the field in the Best Foreign Language category this year, but It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Venezuelan entry – a decent enough movie if the historical liberties don’t cause you to writhe in agony – go quite a long way.

    • For what I read in specialized sites, The Liberator’s chances to win are narrowly slim. The Polish entry Ida is the main favorite, with Sweden and Mauritania looking strong. The Argentinean film was well received in Cannes, as the Russian one. Many thought that Turkey, Canada and specially Belgium (the Dardennes’ film with Marion Cotilliard) were sure to make the shortlist. They didn’t.

      Could Libertador make the final five? Perhaps. It’s an historical film, with good production values. That could attract some of the old-fashioned voters (and there’s a lot of them in the Academy). But winning? Unlikely.

      But of course, as twice Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman once said: Nobody knows anything.

    • Libertador caused me to writhe in agony without even thinking about the history. But historical biopics are almost always telenovelas with slightly larger budgets. This one was no exception. It was “Che” with wigs and bodices. A Venezuelan film like Pelo Malo is much better in my view. You don’t forget a film like that.

  4. The release in NY was quite small. I didn’t get a chance to see it, but the critics say Edgar Ramirez does a great job and the movie had great production values. Would like to see it make the final 5 as that might make more cinemas willing to show it.

  5. To spend millions of dollars making movies while the local population can’t find basic goods on the supermarket shelves borders on sociopathy. The priorities are just wrong.

    On my part, I can’t wait for the day that the South American peoples’ patience will finally run out and they will send all these crazy leftists to hell for good. I want to live long just to see these psychopaths falling one by one.

    And it’s ironic that the Chavistas, who seem to hate the US so much, will just cry like babies and eventually pass out if the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards their movie the oscar. Just this fact tells millions about their confused child-like mind.

  6. I was recently reading some pieces by Maria Teresa Torres on how the cult of the epic heroes from our war of independence ( Bolivar for example) have made us adopt a view of things which favour caudillismo , and the notion that revolutions are good because they erase the evil past and one can start from zero instead of fostering the values of modernity , of how great civilians have worked to build the country followng on the work and achievements of others , . doing things that are not linked to our epic past . When I compare how in britain you can admire people like Wellington but also Darwin or Shakespeare or a host of other great men not associated with their military history and france can admire napoleon but also feel pride at being the country of Montaigne ,and Voltaire and so many other cultural heroes , and germany has in goethe and in beethoven and in many other great men of science or literature a model far surpassing that of Frederik the Great or Bismark one is struck at how countries which are succesful in developing themselves can claim the names of great man from the non military legacy of their past . In our case unfortunately there is no man quite like Bolivar in calling us to appreciate their magnificence quite in the same degree . I dont think that the answer to our problem is solved by demonizing bolivar for being a man of his times and peculiar temper , but do realize that we do need to find or creat a figure whose achievement can capture our imagination the same way a goethe or a beethoven or a lincoln or a Walt Whitman can in their respective countries but that their name doesnt come to mind . ho do we create a great civilian model of national greatness out of thin air ??

    • The creation of a great civilian model of national greatness: Irrespective of political preferences and the vast sums of money spent at promotion for certain propaganda values, I give you Gustavo Dudamel.

    • Couldn’t one possibly also say, however, that the greatest difference between Venezuela as opposed to France, Germany and the UK is the position of being a 200 year old republic built from a European colony vs being a countries that have had centuries to grow, develop, get invaded, get liberated, invade others, get rich, go broke, wage war and win it and lose it etc etc a million times over? The celebration of Bolívar aside, the insistence on comparing Venezuela to Western European nations, and even to the US or Canada (which were colonized/liberated under very different circumstances) is ridiculous. I still agree re the need for celebrating non-political greatness, though. Maybe you don’t need one huge god of anything to celebrate, maybe we could do with acknowledging a bunch of littler ones? It’s not like we universally suck at everything, right? Last I checked there was Jacinto Convit and Andrés Bello and Arturo Michelena and Cruz Diez and Soto and so on and so forth that we could choose to take pride on instead of always conveniently choosing to downplay our own achievements and decide others were better known or simply ‘better’ and hence our own don’t matter. I think a lot of Bolívar’s hype is the whole idea that somehow he on his own went around on his horse delivering South America from the evils of the Spanish rule like some kind of tiny superman, and that sounds like for once one of ours was AWESOME at SOMETHING and it’s nice to believe that.

      • I think it is not correct to keep on banging on “we are a new nation”. Sorry, Belgium is even younger than Venezuela. As Arturo Uslar Pietri said, it is rubbish to consider we have less history than others. We didn’t come from out of space or were created 200 years back.
        60% of our genes and at least as much of our cultural traditions are Spanish. Although native American and African traditions are vastly unknown (from some folkloric stuff), we have that stuff. One of the most stupid things our people could do was to deny three centuries of Spanish past in America and many more from the past our ancestors had in Europe. That doesn’t mean less for the other parts…which we, anyway, didn’t bother to study but for the most superficial folklore.
        It is time to realise we actually had a civil war, a very bloody at that, and that it is better to create unity through something positive.

        This was also part of our past:

        • Thanks for that link, Kepler, didn’t know that man existed. But that’s what I meant when I said perhaps we need to pay attention to many different demigods instead of insisting on just the one alleged mega-god.
          As to the issue of a young nation, perhaps age is not so much the issue and you are right, but I still believe the postcolonial nature of Venezuela as a country and an identity is very much an issue. I don’t think we have ‘less of a history’ than anyone else, but I do think there is a huge difference between identities in Western countries and identities in former colonies and nations built upon how lesser and exploitable they were. Again, it’s not to bang on and go all ‘aw but it’s justifiable because it’s so sad’ or whatever, but to establish that as one possible reason behind how we act today as if we’re lesser than others. As if there is no reason to have any pride for our smaller gods, as if American and European gods are somehow better. Hope that made some sense and it’s obvious nonetheless that in my opinion it is high time we stopped with the self-denigration/self-aggrandizing cycle. (and I’m really sorry if it makes no sense, I’m battling a cold and I’m at a loss now about how much sense it makes 🙁 )

      • “the insistence on comparing Venezuela to Western European nations, and even to the US or Canada (which were colonized/liberated under very different circumstances) is ridiculous”

        If Venezuela can’t be compared to its sister Western nations, than I wonder what is Venezuela’s predominant culture and to which culture it should be compared to? Amerindian ? Asian? Slavic? African?

        Venezuela is a Western country that fucked up politically and economically just like Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria and pretty much all of them had done not too long ago.

        • A Western country? According to what, geography? Come and ask Europe how much they consider any Latin American country a ‘sister nation’. Compare all you like to Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil, whatever, but calling Venezuela a ‘Western nation’ like all it takes to be a Western nation is luck of the hemisphere is quite the stretch.

          • I know where you are coming from, that thing about only rich countries being allowed to be part of the West.

            Even in Europe it was common to say that former dirty poor countries like Portugal, Spain and Ireland were not really “Europe”. Whatever that meant. But yeah, if to be considered a Western country, the country must have a very high GDP per capita and incredible HDI, as well as perfect economic indicators, then Venezuela and all Latin America are obviously not part of the Western world. By the same rule, if the Spaniards elect Podemos and allow them to destroy the country’s economy, then Spain won’t be very Western anymore, right?; on the other hand, by insisting on this same economic criteria we might soon have our first Western country in Latin America: Chile.

            “Compare all you like to Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil”

            Yeah, and Portugal and Spain too.
            Actually, an Argentine or Venezuelan will feel closer to Spain than to countries like Brazil and Portugal.

          • There are too many factors beyond gdp to decide what exactly is “the West”. I honestly don’t believe anybody would ever consider Venezuela and Germany as somehow “sisters”, and the idea just makes me think of that episode of The Big Bang Theory in which a student decides to become Sheldon’s assistant and at one point she looks at Penny with a deranged look and asks “sisters?” While offering her pinky.
            My point was more that this is a useless comparison, anyway. IMHO.

      • Many years ago an old brit colleague asked me why we made such a hoopla about Bolivar and I was stumped for an answer , I do think there is much to admire about him but that the cult has gone overboard in ways that warrant some effort at an explanation and frankly Im not sure which to give. There just isnt any other civilian figure which captures peoples imagination quite the same way . Other countrys liberators when you get to read about them seem so comparatively bland and lackluster !!. To me its an open queston. The cult of the Epic Hero is very much alive in our culture and maybe its been exploited by our past and current rulers in ways that havent helped us move ahead , but we cant blame Bolivar for that . !! I myself see Epic cults as something a bit inmature but I know that feeling is not shared by most Venezuelans .!! When I compared ourselves with the situation in other countries I was seeking an explanation , but Im not sure the comparisons were totaly valid or really provided one. Why do we need to imagine a superman in horseback as the saviour of our miseries is for me beyond explanation.!! I liked many of the comments recieved (even the humorous ones) but need more time and effort to try and figure this one out. !!

        • These two quotes from British historian John Lynch will help you understand:

          “Venezuela, a country without a distinguished prehistory or an outstanding colonial experience, feels great only in the independence Simón Bolívar had won for it.”

          “Bolívar compensated for a national feeling of inferiority to the world, especially to Europe. He enabled Venezuelans to raise themselves in international esteem. He was the first Latin American of real universal dimension who enabled them to escape from the tendency to self-deprecation.”

          So you see, the problem is not Bolívar but what we think of ourselves without him.

          • Thank you Gabriel for these very revealing quotes . Wee need to enrich our imagination with a fabulous mythology which allows us to share in a common pride to feel united in a national identity , Venezuela has few things with which to build such a mithology , perhaps the only outstanding one being our epic struggle for independence and its main figure Bolivar ,a very romantic and magnificent character indeed. We suffer from historical mediochrity and our proud nature pushes us to scape it by building a grand mythology arround the epic figure of Bolivar . Our attempt to find men who somehow partake of his greatness has led to pathetic results . We need to outgrow our mental dependence on these myths to become a modern succesful nation . The question of course is how.

        • There is Miranda. I repeat: there is Miranda. We could have made up something of other figures. We decided we couldn’t when Páez triggered the mad wave of personality cult back in 1842, when coffee prices were low and revolt was ripe.

          • Miranda was an outstanding figure without doubt , but there is also a dark side to his life and personality which makes him a troublesome epic hero, For part of his life he was an adventurer , a schemer involved in shady deals , smuggling contraband from jamaica to bring to Cuba with the connivance of his friend the governor of the island , it was the discovery of these shenagiggans which led to his expulsion from the spanish army and latter exile from latin america , then to survive he made himself up to be the visionary leader of great romantic movement to free the fabled ‘incas’ , using the european fascination with the myth of the good american savage to atract influential peoples attention and support . he also posed as an aristocrat to make himself more attractive to his many aristocratic hosts throughout educated europe . Im sure he convinced himself that he was this great freedom loving patriot and that he was sincere in his advocacy of American Freedom beside being a man of dazzling cultivation intelligence and charm . But there was always something of the grand impostor in him. Finally he was a failure in his attempt to lead Venezuela in its first effort towards independence. A failure can be a hero in other places but less so in Venezuela . There is a paragraph which describes him in a book by Naipaul (Voyage to El Dorado) which depicts his character to a t and which has the insight to define him as an quintessential venezuelan , the description is part flattering and part a put down . He has already been richly mithologized by Venezuelan historians and proto historians but still doesnt make the grade. No!! the answer is to forego our primitive cult of epic heroes altoghether , take pride in what we can achieve as a modern people without depending so much on past fables.


        YES! Thank you Earnest. It doesn’t HAVE to be a person. Here are other superlatives to apply to Venezuela:

        – Best coffee in the world (not now, but could be again.)

        – Best chocolate in the world (not now, but could be again.)

        – Awesome sense of humor.

        – Most beautiful women in the world.

        • Well …Generl Degaulle did boast of France as the country of 400 different kinds of cheese…..difficult to beat that though,!!

        • Sadly I don’t subscribe to any of those (I think they’re all vague enough to be easily claimed by loads of other cultures), but being a lover of cheese, I must say I kind of long terribly for the day I get my hands on some telita or queso de mano again… for me Venezuelan cheeses win all the way!

        • My two cents:

          – Best coffee in the world (not now, but could be again.)
          [As good as Colombia’s but they turned out to be smarter at marketing it]

          – Best chocolate in the world (not now, but could be again.)
          [One of the world’s better cocoa but our chocolatiers can’t compete with the Swiss, the actual kings]

          – Awesome sense of humor.
          [Harsh sense of humor. We’ll hardly laugh unless there’s swearing. White humor is a no-no]

          – Most beautiful women in the world.
          [As Osmel Sousa said, the daughters of the immigration wave –the real beauties– are getting scarcer]

  7. I went to school with several of the guys from the movie. Steve en Campo and Alex F. en Miami-Dade. They left for LA eons ago. Nice to see them in film


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