“A true verification of quest, of truly engagement with the filmmaking and with the public, without bounds or neither ideological nor commercial concessions”
Alfonso Molina about “Alias el Rey del joropo” 1978
Carlos Rebolledo is a filmmaker with few Works, but he is a man with a long trajectory. He was the one who founded the Film Department of the University of Los Andes – Venezuela, together with Jesús Enrique Guédez, the father of the protest documentary in Venezuela. When the country seemed to be a Latin American oasis of peace, prosperity and comfort, Rebolledo -together with personalities such as Ugo Ulive, Guédez and Edmundo Aray- exposed the inconformity, alarm and emergency toward the reality of the nation. Such as the poverty in the middle of the oil wealth and the necessity of creating a truly cinematographic culture in our country.
Rebolledo was born in Chuao in 1933, and in 1962 graduated from the Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies in Paris. In the mid-60s, he came back to Venezuela as an active militant of the art, talking about a compromise, and a new consciousness for the national film industry. Under the premise of “an urgent cinema”, he questioned the apathy ruling in Venezuela. In 1967, after the multimedia show “Image of Caracas” –organized by Posani, Jacobo Borges and Inocente Palacio- which consisted on the integration of all kind of arts; including architecture, but using as the film as a central axis. Rebolledo organized the first Latin American Documentary Film Festival in Venezuela. For making this event, he chose the city of Mérida and there he left the first seed that made of Mérida the cinematographic state of the country par excellence.
Without losing momentum, in the year 1968, he suggested to Pedro Rincón Gutierrez, former Rector of the ULA and to Oswaldo Vigas, director of culture of the same University, to open a special center for documentary film. This initiative was accepted and Carlos Rebolledo looked for the support of personalities such as Jorge Solé. Ugo Ulive, Donald Myerston, Manuel Marquina, Fernando Toro and the Siso brothers, sometime after it, Michael New, Tarik Souki, Armando Arce, Fernando Gavidia and some others join to this initiative. And with Carlos Rebolledo as the head director of the Documentary Film Center started the adventure of this fruitful producer house, today known as Film Department of the University of Los Andes.
During those years emerged from the earth itself, with great innovation “The New Latin American Cinema”, with energetic and controversial filmmakers such as Glaubert Rocha, Nelson Pereira Dos Santos and Santiago Álvarez. The Department was part of this vindicated movement and during the following years, it received from the exile the Argentinean Fernando Birri, and together made “Rafael Alberti”. With Patricio Guzmán exiled from Chile the department made La Rosa de los Vientos (The Rose of the Wind). Also, the Ukamau group from Bolivia and the legendary Jorge Sanjiés as a coproducer made Fuera de aquí (Get out of here), this movie was edited in the Film Department of the ULA. This is just for naming some, in the space of a few years the Department had produced more than 200 documentaries and films.
What said before is for recalling the seeds that Rebolledo’s initiatives left; when we look into his personal work, we find a not-that-long list of 5 or 6 oeuvres. Nevertheless, it is proven that a filmmaker does not need a long list of movies to have among them an important work, something that Tarkoski or Tati’s cinema taught us. These artists, were theorists and as Rebolledo, promoters of the cinematographic phenomena. The work of Rebolledo, although short, has something in particular: it is one of the most convincing and realistic films ever made in the country. His main purpose was to dismantle the hypocritical mask of the oil producer Venezuela. His cinematographic work was the most energetic and brave denounce about the 4th Republic, made during the 4th Republic. Nonetheless, his work today has been forgotten, and the attempts to forbid it and bury it gave results, in the same way as all the censorship and violence against the truth during the Perez-Caldera era.
The work of Guedez and Rebolledo is the most subversive ever made in Venezuela. It is an alarm cinema, the most honest made in the 60s and 70s. During those days Rebolledo used to say: “we need a cinema that reverts and dismantles the cultural mechanisms of dependency”. The political lucidity joined with the ability to use symbols and play with the cinematographic language, creating as a result a powerful discourse and achieving new results. This result is managed skillfully in the film Venezuela a tres tiempos (Venezuela on three times), a film with the dimension of La hora de los hornos (The hour of the furnaces) by Getino and Solanas. This film strongly denounces the inequality of Venezuela. It starts in a sarcastic way describing Caracas as “the most modern city of Latin America, dynamic and balanced…” then it juxtaposes the different documented facts through an excellent editing, getting by contrast a reliable and dramatic documentary, and by its background narration, with a very dark humor.
Venezuela tres tiempos (1972)
Venezuela on three times seems the summary of all the energy with which Guédez and Rebolledo himself denounced the situation in Venezuela, but as a full-length film. One deserving to be a blockbuster, yet at that time it was forbidden in every theater. The film shows such a banal Venezuela that it is a gun shooting at itself. It shows poverty told by the very people and some colorful caricature of the presidents who have been in this poor house. Nevertheless, at that time a documentary film was not considered a film, and the country was so dazed with the American fiction that it was well prepared to close its eyes to what it had in front of it; not even the topics that this film showed which should have been of interest for the people of this country.
Venezuela tres tiempos (1972)
Five years before that, he made together with Edmundo Aray a dramatic short film called Pozo muerto (Dead Well). He was presented by the magazine El Techo de la Ballena as the consultant of the direction. There, Adriano González León –the man of topics and anti-topics- is presented, and Carlos Contramaestre in the production. Told by the ghosts who remain in the town, the documentary shows the destructive impact of the oil companies in the places they established, in this case Cabimas and Lagunillas. Dead Well is a savage denounce, a cry gone with the wind without any repercussion. A real-life drama hidden in Venezuela; and with such importance that it was capable of overthrowing the government of Rómulo Gallegos. The last hope to regulate the oil companies in our land.
Dead Well is another example where the mastering of the documentary is shown. The quiet reality blows up when Rebolledo puts it together in a 35-minute film, leading to an inevitable result. And everything that happens in Cabimas scares us, and we understand the way in which injustice works in front of our apathetic noses. Rebolledo’s cinema was before anything, a cinema compromised with the country. We cannot call it political cinema, I would simple say it is a lucid cinema. Dead Well is a film, an experience, a speech, a violent and urgent shake. A cinema which made him shut.
Pozo muerto, 1967
Finally, Rebolledo joined fiction and made two films: (Alias), el rey del Joropo (Alias, the king of the Joropo), which is a parody of television and the media world through a true story; part of the life of Alfredo Alvarado, the number 1 enemy of the Venezuelan law during the 60s. And left almost finished a film called Profesión: vivir (Profession: living). After this, it seems he closed his eyes and without any explanation he abandoned us.
Yet before that, Rebolledo left us the courageous cinema ever made in Venezuela, a cinema made by instinct more that technique; a cinema with the essence of Fellini. He left us a generation of students of the Casa Rómulo Gallegos and of the Central University of Venezuela. He left us a Production Company sponsored by the University of Los Andes and a cinematographic light in Mérida, which will never switch off. Farewell Maestro, your films have still lots to say.
La casa natal del Libertador 1964
Urbanismo y arquitectura en Caracas
Pozo muerto 1967
Los Andes y su Universidad 1969 codirigido con Jorge Solaz
Venezuela en tres tiempos 1972 codirigido con Edmundo Aray
(Alias), El Rey del Joropo 1977 codirigido con Thaelman Urgelles
Profesión: vivir 1985
Vereda.com “Un lugar en la memoria” Edmundo Aray 1994
Vereda.com “Breve historia del Centro de Cinematografía ULA” Fredy Siso 1994
Conversaciones con: Michael New, Tarik Souki, Edmundo Aray
Blogacine.com Blog de discución sobre el cine latinoamericano y Caribeño
Pag. del Ministerio del Poder Popular (Historia del cine en Venezuela)
Libro.1 Encuentro de Documentalistas 2015
Carlos Monagas, 2007