Araya | Chicago Reader

Araya

Margot Benacerraf's poetic tribute to the centuries-old traditions of Venezuelan salt miners caused a sensation at Cannes in 1959 and then went largely unseen for decades. This meticulous restoration dazzles with crisp, formally rigorous black-and-white images and a complex sound mix, as its minimalist story of three families of manual laborers unfolds against a harsh, barren peninsula. A little girl collects seashells to decorate graves while her mother hawks fish, the only food source, and a long line of men snakes inland to build towering pyramids of salt. The director scripted and staged the action to extol the working poor, finding strength and dignity in their almost balletic rituals. But she doesn't explore beyond the picturesque, thus suggesting little hope for the community when the specter of mechanization abruptly arises. In Spanish with subtitles.

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