Since President Hugo Chavez assumed center stage in this South American nation (whether he is playing the role of Robin Hood or Fidel Castro depends on your interpretation), we've heard about little else. Well, muchachos y muchachas, the country has a long, fascinating history, and it's high time you learned about it. Not using books, DVDs, or the Internet -- just the 800 pounds of 35mm film that FAU Professor Luis Duno-Gottberg has borrowed for the Venezuelan Film Festival.
Javier Guerrero, president of the Cinemateca Nacional de Venezuela, gets things started with a free lecture at Florida Atlantic University's Performing Arts Building (777 Glades Rd., Boca Raton) at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Films screen at Cinema Paradiso (503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale), and all have English subtitles. They begin on Saturday with a double-header: Don Leandro el Inefable (1919), a silent movie about a man who moves from the provinces to the big city of Caracas; and La Balandra Isabel Llegó Esta Tarde (1949), about a man's adventures on the island of Margarita. According to Duno-Gottberg, this film is notable for its gender stereotypes, including a "lazy man in a hammock and a woman who devours men."
Also included among the festival's 12 flicks is Soy un Delincuente (I Am a Delinquent) (1976), one of the most popular films in Venezuelan history. It chronicles the violent, passionate life of a Caracas robber. Manuela Sáenz, La Libertadora del Libertador (2000) is a fictionalized bio of Simon Bolivar's lover, who accompanied him in battle and saved his life on several occasions. She ends up in Peru, telling her story to a man who, it turns out, is Herman Melville.