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Directed by Margot Benacerraf
Venezuela | France 
1959

 

Benacerraf’s tour de force ARAYA explores a day in the lives of three families living in Araya, an arid peninsula in northeastern Venezuela. For centuries, since its discovery by the Spanish, the region’s salt was collected and stacked into radiant white pyramids. Benacerraf captures breathtaking and unforgettable images – from the saliņeros toiling to build the mountains of salt, to fishermen hauling in huge teeming nets, to a young girl and her grandmother laying “flowers” of shells on windswept graves.

Benacerraf's meticulously planned tone poem’s imagery, music, sound, and language create a moving and magical exploration of a desolate place and the remarkable people who lived there.

***

Shown at Cannes in 1959, the year after Venezuela's last dictator Marcos Perez-Jimenez was overthrown, the documentary... inadvertently highlights the kind of exploitation of the poor that can lead to rebellion. While the dictator escaped to Miami with $13 million, salt workers were piling up mounds of salt on the flat sands, making barely enough money to keep them in arepas and black beans. Between the hot, tropical climate and the sores on their feet, the job these workers do every day is excruciating. Yet the lives of the fishermen and salt workers in this documentary are shown in the context of planned, upscale development, something of a disservice to the larger picture.

Excerpt from Eleanor Mannikka, All Movie Guide

Poster

Theatrical Release: May 13th, 1959 - Cannes Film Festival

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DVD Review: Milestone Cinematheque - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution Milestone Cinematheque - Region 0 - NTSC
Runtime 1:22:06 
Video 1.66:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.48 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s   

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0) / French (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English (for Spanish soundtrack), None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Milestone Cinematheque

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by Margot Benacerraf
• Reveron - the first film by Margot Benacerraf (1953, B&W, 23 mins) with optional
Benacerraf commentary (Spanish with English subtitles)
• The Film of Her Life: Araya - documentary by Antoine Mora (16:24)
• Two extensive television interviews with Margot Benacerraff on ARAYA and REVERON (23 mins and 10 mins)
• ARAYA American trailer (1:47)
• ARAYA Presskit (PDF file for download)
• From the Files of Margot Benacerraf (PDF file for download)

DVD Release Date:
May 17th, 2011
Keep Case
Chapters: 12

 

Comments:

Beautiful film and beautiful DVD. The visual poetry of Araya is undeniable and my only regret is that this wasn't in 1080P - although perhaps one day.

Milestone Cinematheque's DVD of the restored film is a magnificent package. The image seems to scale above SD with consistent even grain and impressive contrast. I have no issues, whatsoever, with the damage-free image quality. There is a unremarkable but audible Spanish language track (and French option) and optional English subtitles for the documentaries narration.

Supplements are also well above standard starting with a commentary by Margot Benacerraf describing details of the production. We also get 'Reveron' - the first film by Margot Benacerraf - made in 1953 and running 23-minutes. It is offered with optional Benacerraf commentary (this time in Spanish with English subtitles). This is another poetic documentary - the topic however is the artist Reveron, whose work is displayed in its creative environment in various stages of contrasting light. Another short documentary is included - entitled The Film of Her Life: Araya - by Antoine Mora running 16-minutes - it has Margot Benacerraf returning to Araya in 1996. There are also two extensive television interviews with Benacerraff discussing Araya for 23-minutes and Reveron for 10 minutes. There is a US trailer for Araya and on the disc is a PDF file Press Kit.

Both the film and the SD presentation are extremely pleasing - and the extras are worthy of Criterion. I'll simply say that this is one of the most recommendable DVD packages of the year to date. Cinema fans should consider this 'essential viewing'. High praise for Milestone! 

Gary W. Tooze

 



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Distribution Milestone Cinematheque - Region 0 - NTSC



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