A LA CALLE (To the Streets)
Warner Media 150 for HBO Max
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Nelson G. Navarrete, Maxx Caicedo
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 9/13/21
Opens: September 15, 2021 on HBO Max
Some American Marxists have a habit of endorsing the government or any country that calls itself socialist, as though each of these authoritarian regimes have not wound up with firmly statist roles. So it is that in Venezuela, American socialists and their sympathizers virtually deified Hugo Chavez for breaking up big estates and handing them over to “the people.” His successor, however, never had the Chavez’s charisma, and what’s more he has been blamed for turning his once rich Venezuela into a nation rife with starvation and hyperinflation. There is little doubt that Nicolás Maduro rigged elections and, in fact, our own previous president recognized his major opponent as the actual interim president of Venezuela. In this documentary, Nelson G. Navarrete and Maxx Caicedo make the case that Maduro does hold his post illegally as do hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens who line the streets demanding his ouster.
“A la calle” calls dramatic attention to the situation in Venezuela, once the richest country in Latin America, now perhaps the poorest. But in giving so much attention to the street protests, where opposition leaders like Leopoldo Lopéz and Juan Guaidó bring out hundreds of thousands of citizens of Caracas a la calle—directors Nelson G. Navarrete and Maxx Caicedo do make crystal clear why so many people treat these opponents as though they are messiahs.
Instead of doing their best to try to block out the speeches with intrusive music, the directors could have made clear why the country blames the current president for sinking the country’s economy. The economy is contracting as the country is almost wholly dependent on the world price of oil—which it does not control. At the same time, prices for goods are sky high, so that a family might be able to afford a kilo of cheese and a couple of plátanos, they would have to choose between the two. If it were not tragic, it would be humorous to note as we see one head of family plunk down bankrolls of bolivars as though he had just robbed a bank, but all of that paper is worth just enough to get some pasta and rice Can you imagine what would happen in our country if inflation hit 450% a year as it does in Venezuela? Some years ago a U.S. dollar would net you 100 bolivars. Now one dollar can get you 404,296,000,000 bolivars. Need wallpaper, anybody?
When the government–imposed price ceilings on food, the supermarket shelves were cleared out in days. Now that the government has backtracked, milk, eggs, flour, soap and toilet paper are unaffordable to most. But here’s the rub. While Venezuelans and an increasing number of soldiers have crossed the bridge to Colombia, the film does not explain why so many folks believe their problems would be over if Maduro departed: a corrupt dictator who refuses to allow humanitarian aid from Brazil and Colombia since that would be an admission of failure. If opposition leaders like Juan Guaidó, once head of the Venezuelan National Assembly—which at one point was dissolved by Maduro—took power in Miraflores–he is recognized as the current interim president by fifty countries—how would that solve the food and medicine shortages? Even the brief allowances that Maduro made by distributing food to his supporters among the poor through the CLAP program is corrupt. It is said that Maduro owns the company from which the food was bought, but we do not learn this from the film.
While it’s true that Maduro and his inner circle have gained weight on lavish meals while 78% of his people are starving, we’ve got to ask: once again, how would a new leadership change the situation when the country depends so much on the price of oil? We wind up with a film full of sound and fury (and did I mention the intrusive, unrelenting music?) signifying little other than rah rah speeches and impressively filmed street demonstrations.
111 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – C-
Acting – n/a
Overall – C