The peninsula of Araya in Venezuela is one of the most arid places on earth. Since its discovery by the Spanish 500 years ago, the region’s salt has been exploited manually. Three stories underline the harsh life of this region—all of which vanished with the arrival of industrial exploitation.
In 1959 Hiroshima, mon amour shared a top award from Cannes with a Venezuelan film of matched accomplishment in pure cinema–and that film is Araya. A document of remnants of the pre-industrialized world, Araya is a breathtaking reinvention of documentary as something both political and mystical.
This belongs to those rare films that leave you with the question, "How did they make it?" A solid documentary as it is, elements like the poetic narration, the character-based storyline, the editing and structure lend a strong literary quality to it. This visual semi- (quasi-?) fictional novel-in-film-form is one of the sweetest and saltiest things I've ever seen.
This is an incredibly beautiful documentary. Each scene has so much beauty and elegance that it makes you wonder if any of it was real. And of course it was, which makes it even more worthwhile to watch.
While the voice over, though it has its moments, is a bit much, and the Foley work often foregrounds a somewhat discomfiting artificiality, ARAYA is something of a triumph simply as visual art. Watching it, I very quickly lost any real interest in the ethnographic side of things, but remained utterly transfixed by the chromatic beauty of it and the finesse of the camera movements. Very beautiful and kinda hypnotic.
Not a great documentary, but amazing subject matter. The point is hammered home crudely that that the viewer is to pity these people and admire their tenacity. But we are presented only with an outsider's perspective with the narrator ruminating at length about how timeless their struggle is. The agency and humanity of the people is pretty much obscured. But their story is a fascinating one, however badly told!
Tremendous, horrendous yet ultimately problematic. No doubt a product of its times the commentary begs many questions. Are we supposed to feel nostalgic for the 'noble savagery' of the lives of these people or angry at their exploitation and glad to see mechanisation destroy the relentless monotony of their lives? Did the cinematography need to be so arch and arty?
Interesting documentary about life and survival in an arid and merciless landscape. I found the orchestral soundtrack overbearing at times, though the songs were terrific. I wish some of the villagers had been interviewed or had a voice in some way. The story is narrated by one voice. "Nothing grows here..." then we see grass and cacti.