Venezuela’s Latest Blockbuster Film is Also a Hard-Watch for Exiles

I was afraid of watching this story about a young man navigating the protests and the repression. But I left the cinema feeling proud

I hesitated before buying the ticket to watch Simón, Diego Vicentini’s debut film about a Venezuelan survivor of torture looking for asylum in Miami. In the days before the global premiere, many Venezuelan friends commented they were thinking it twice before watching the movie. I was terribly afraid myself. How would the horrors and human rights violations we read about in the UN reports translate to the big screen? Would it trigger my own PTSD? 

It’s easy to fall into despair when you have the never-ending crisis of Venezuela in the back of your head. So natural to feel hate towards those that created the worst humanitarian crisis in the western hemisphere; wallowing in sadness over the fact that almost 8 million refugees struggle to create a new life in far off countries. The sense of powerlessness over so many Venezuelans suffering the hardships of a repressive regime and the indignities of a system designed to create misery. For us abroad, it can feel like we lost our country forever. 

Vicentini’s film rearranges this narrative and reminds us that being Venezuelan is something we will never lose. That a country stolen does not imply the loss of an identity. 

We went to the Silverspot theater in Downtown Miami after counseling each other about what to expect from the movie. Not everyone in my friend group felt they could watch it now, and that’s ok. Especially those of the generation that lived through the protests depicted in the film.

The film takes us on an emotional journey. We feel the joy of singing happy birthday to a friend, witness the horrors of torture, sigh with relief at the solidarity of others, have trouble breathing, and end up moved by the forgiveness that must come if we want to heal our collective wounds as a country.  

Director Diego Vicentini’s achievement doesn’t stop there. He managed to create a story that transcends our tragedy. As one critic writes: “Simón is riveting because it humanizes the universality of survivor’s guilt, trauma, grief, and the overwhelming desire we all have for a better life.” One of the film’s great achievements is that it creates a cohesive and believable story that moves emotions no matter your nationality. 

I left the movie feeling very proud of being Venezuelan. Even if it is a tough watch, the accomplishment of the film itself shows that our people, both in the country and abroad, have resilience and an entrepreneurial spirit that the suffering, brought by more than 20 years of economic calamity and democracy destruction, has not yet crushed. I also left convinced that this movie is an excellent vehicle to tell universal truths about the formula many oppressive regimes use to stay in power. 

Countries do not die while there are people that share an identity that even in the deepest darkness offers the possibility for light.The movie will be available online (October 22-29th) and friends of different nationalities are very interested in seeing it too. It will be interesting to hear what they have to say and, of course, we will be rooting for the movie to do well in the Premios Goya. In a country that seems drowned in bad news we all can use the happiness that comes from supporting your people and seeing them succeed.