Photographers' Blog

Simple people, proud actors

March 14, 2011

The inhabitants of a Caribbean fishing village with no cinema, have become movie stars.

When I was invited to attend the screening of the movie “The Kid Who Lies” (El Chico que Miente) in the same village on Venezuela’s Caribbean coast where it was filmed, I had no doubt it would be a fantastic experience.

I could just imagine the excitement of its inhabitants seeing themselves and their familiar places on the big screen. But when I reached Ocumare I discovered that this was a place that hadn’t seen a movie screening since its last theater closed 40 years ago, and that this one would be truly special.

Residents attend the premiere of "El Chico que Miente" (The Kid Who Lies) in Ocumare February 25, 2011. For the past four decades, Ocumare, a small Caribbean fishing village with a population of 7000, did not have a movie theatre but it did not stop them from being portrayed as the protagonist of the first Venezuelan film to participate in February's Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Friday night was warm as some 1,000 noisy ocumareños gathered in the social club along Bolivar Square. They filled the club with the sound of drums and the smell of coffee, sitting on plastic chairs and on the floor. Many stood along the walls, and others even poked their heads through the open windows. Nobody wanted to miss it.

Residents watch the premiere of "El Chico que Miente" (The Kid Who Lies) outside a municipality clubhouse in Ocumare February 25, 2011. For the past four decades, Ocumare, a small Caribbean fishing village with a population of 7000, did not have a movie theatre but it did not stop them from being portrayed as the protagonist of the first Venezuelan film to participate in February's Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

“I never went to the movies before, and the first time I get to see one I’m in it,” oyster seller Argenis proudly told me. His smile brightened his deeply-tanned face. “My children are happy to see their father in a movie, even if it’s just for five minutes.”

Residents attend the premiere of "El Chico que Miente" (The Kid Who Lies) in Ocumare February 25, 2011. For the past four decades, Ocumare, a small Caribbean fishing village with a population of 7000, did not have a movie theatre but it did not stop them from being portrayed as the protagonist of the first Venezuelan film to participate in February's Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

“The Kid Who Lies,” directed by Peruvian Marite Ugas, is a road movie shot along the Venezuelan coast. It tells the story of a boy who was a victim of the 1999 Vargas tragedy, the worst natural disaster in Venezuela’s history where some 10,000 people died in landslides and floods, with thousands left homeless. Ugas was at the screening, and was especially anxious to see the reactions of her protagonists. She also wanted to use the event to thank the villagers’ hospitality.

Peruvian director Marite Ugas (C) observes the reactions of residents of Caribbean fishing village Ocumare as they watch themselves act in her movie "The Kid Who Lies," in Ocumare's social club February 25, 2011. For the past four decades, Ocumare, a small Caribbean fishing village with a population of 7000, did not have a movie theatre but it did not stop them from being portrayed as the protagonist of the first Venezuelan film to participate in February's Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Every time a familiar face or place appeared on the screen you could hear whispers, comments and laughter. It was a collective movie experience in the most unlikely of places, a fishing village surrounded by coffee farms.

After the show ended life returned to normal in Ocumare, but for Ramona Lartiguez, one of the chance actresses, remained the pride and recognition. Ramona, 76, plays the role of herself in the movie, singing the same song she sings every year to celebrate the Fiesta de San Juan, the most important celebration on Venezuela’s Afro-Caribbean coast. “I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie here in the village,“ she said. “We’re so happy they came to film here. I hope there’s a second part.”

Ramona Lartiguez, 76, a cast member of "El Chico que Miente" (The Kid Who Lies) poses during the premiere of the film in Ocumare February 25, 2011. For the past four decades, Ocumare, a small Caribbean fishing village with a population of 7000, did not have a movie theatre but it did not stop them from being portrayed as the protagonist of the first Venezuelan film to participate in February's Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

I asked farmer Tomas Delgado about Ocumane’s last cinema just as he was leaving the club on his rusty bicycle. “The last movie theater we had nearby was in Cuboto, half an hour from here, that lasted until 1968,” he recalled. “It was on an old ranch brought by its owner. They showed Cantinflas and other black-and-white movies, but then television put an end to it. I used to steal chicken eggs from neighbors to sell them for one Bolivar, the price of a ticket.”

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