Movie List
Loading ...
Find Theaters and Movie Times
Search Movies

Review: Araya

Benacerraf's classic documentary gets an anniversary showing
By GERALD PEARY  |  December 16, 2009
4.0 4.0 Stars


Margot Benacerraf's extraordinary Venezuelan documentary, among the finest ever made, shared the 1959 International Critics Prize at Cannes with Alain Resnais's Hiroshima, mon amour and then disappeared. Not until now, 50 years later, has it shown in the United States.

Be grateful that Araya is here, in an exquisitely restored print, with images of struggling Venezuelan peasants as luminous as the Mexican photographs of Edward Weston. Araya, a forlorn peninsula in Northern Venezuela, is a century-after-century Hades; the people are all either downtrodden salt miners or impoverished fishermen, living in a desert without water or vegetation, each generation repeating by rote the dreadful existence of the one before.

Benacerraf never alludes to the bosses far away in the cities, those who profit from these eternally wasted lives. But this great movie, reminiscent of Robert Flaherty's Man of Aran, Luis Buñuel's Land Without Bread, and Hiroshi Teshigahara's fictional classic Woman in the Dunes, does wonder aloud, via voiceover, about Jehovah's Old Testament pledge of fruit-bearing trees to the people of earth. Not on Araya, the Land That God Forgot.

At the MFA, December 17-20

Related: Review: Did You Hear About the Morgans?, Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Review: Daybreakers, More more >
  Topics: Reviews , Entertainment, Movies, Venezuela,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   REVIEW: LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE  |  March 12, 2013
    A decent little movie, but hardly a major one, from Iran's master filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, who, self-exiled, here shoots in Tokyo with an all-Japanese cast.
  •   REVIEW: THE GATEKEEPERS  |  February 26, 2013
    Great cinema journalism, The Gatekeepers was the National Society of Film Critics' winner for Best Documentary of 2012.
  •   REVIEW: THE LITTLE FUGITIVE (1953)  |  February 27, 2013
    It's the 60th anniversary of this pioneering American independent feature, which greatly influenced both cinema vérité documentarians and the French New Wave.
  •   REVIEW: HOW TO RE-ESTABLISH A VODKA EMPIRE  |  February 20, 2013
    Daniel Edelstyn launched this film project after reading the spirited diary of his late grandmother, Maroussia Zorokovich, whose wealthy Jewish family split from Ukraine as the Bolsheviks were taking control.
  •   REVIEW: HAPPY PEOPLE: A YEAR IN THE TAIGA  |  February 12, 2013
    What Robert Flaherty did with title cards in his silent Nanook of the North , Werner Herzog manages with declamatory voiceover in Happy People : romanticization of the austere, self-reliant lives of hunters and trappers in the icebound north.

 See all articles by: GERALD PEARY