Margot Benacerraf’s Araya


The restoration of Margot Benacerraf’s brilliant 1959 Araya, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the film’s first showing at the Cannes Film Festival, is a touchstone of Latin American film history. Acclaimed as a forerunner of feminist Latina cinema, Araya was never released theatrically in the United States and has all but been forgotten, even though it shared the Cannes International Critics Prize with Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima, Mon Amour. Milestone’s North American theatrical premiere and worldwide release in 2009 “will give audiences the chance to rediscover Benacerraf — a powerful and distinctive voice in the history of cinema.” Araya was originally compared to Flaherty’s Man of Aran, Visconti’s La Terra Trema (1947) and Rossellini’s India (1957).

Benacerraf’s film portrays a day in the life of three families living in one of the harshest places on earth — Araya, an arid peninsula in northeastern Venezuela (directly south of Isla de Margarita). For 450 years, since its discovery by the Spanish, the region’s salt was manually collected and stacked into glowing white pyramids. Overlooking the area, a 17th-century fortress built to protect against pirate raids stood as a reminder of the days when the mineral was worth as much as gold and great fortunes were made in the salt trade. Benacerraf captures the grueling work of these salineros in breathtaking high-contrast black-and-white images.

Margot%20BenacerrafAraya will be playing from October 7-20 at the IFC Center in New York (located at 323 Sixth Avenue at West Third Street). Benacerraf will be present at the screenings on the evenings of October 7, 9, and 10 at the 6:20pm and 8:20pm shows.

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Margot Benacerraf went to study film in Paris, where she graduated from the Institut des hautes études cinématographiques. Besides the Cannes International Critics Prize, she has received numerous honors and awards such as Venezuela´s National Prize of Cinema (1995), the Andrés Bello Award, the Simón Bolivar Award, the Order of the Italian Government, and the Bernardo O’Higgins Order of the Government of Chile, among others. Her most well-known films are Reverón and Araya.

[Many thanks to Ángeles Placer for bringing this ítem to our attention.]

For full article, see

For film schedule and more information, see

For interview with Margot Benacerraf (and photo of the director) see,

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