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Ask your average American, even Latin American, what they think of Uruguay, and you’ll mostly get blank stares. Over the last century of political turmoil that plagued the rest of the continent, Uruguay was blessed with the reputation as South America’s most stable and boring democracy. Even their guerrillas were more snarky than revolutionary: The Tupamaros, of whom current President José Mujica was a member, would dress up as garbagemen and root through the trash at courthouses, kidnap government officials and present them with evidence of their corruption before letting them go. It’s unclear what exactly this accomplished.
But Uruguay does produce great soccer players, fine wool, and pretty good movies to boot. So this year’s Ibero-American Film Festival, which opens tonight, kicks off with Gigante (Giant). It’s a multinational production, with Spanish and German money and an Argentinean director, Adrián Biniez. But its setting is the cramped apartments and antiseptic supermarkets of Montevideo, its protagonist a bored security guard who inhabits both. Jara (Horacio Camadule) is a shy, overweight metalhead who hates his job until he notices a pretty janitor, Julia (Leonor Svarcas) and commences spying on her through the store’s security cameras. If Julia is a mysterious beauty, Jara is something of a cipher; his sweet disposition and occasional violent outbursts create an uneasy tension such that it’s unclear for most of the film if Gigante is a cute romantic comedy or dark tale of obsession. It’s ultimately a satisfying experience to learn what makes the two characters tick.
Gigante shows at the Inter American Development Bank’s Enrique Iglesias auditorium today at 6:30 p.m. Free. Doors open at 6.
The Ibero-American Film Festival continues Friday, Jan. 20 through Thursday, Feb. 23 with free screenings at various embassies. Schedule and film summaries below:
JUNTOS PARA SIEMPRE (Together Forever)
Comedy / 2010 / 101 min
There is no room for real life in Gross’ head, an screenwriter looking for a new story. In a permanent state of denial, he doesn’t even hear his wife confessing cheating on him. When she finally leaves him, he doesn’t flinch, and immediately finds a replacement girlfriend, who is not very bright but is more willing to endure his abuse. Gross’ mother, a guilt-ridden woman, confesses to him that his father is not really his father in an absurd and ridiculous scene. Gross also minimizes this confession and plunges into the writing of his script: a family tragedy that we see in action and ends in the worst way, becoming a metaphor for the fate of Gross.
UN FUEGUITO (A Little Fire)
Documentary / 2010 / 70 min
Nobel Prize Winner César Milstein was the kind of person that leaves a trace and goes beyond as a consequence of his work, his concentration, his obstinacy and tenancy. His achievements along all these years of research produced countless benefits and practical application in medicine, biology and immunology; and they meant an advance in the developing of scientific knowledge. However, his spirit of joy, adventure and questioning not only brought challenges to science, but also filled the family in Argentina and friends around the world with the most exquisite and unforgettable experiences in life. With debate after the screening.
LEONERA (Lion’s Den)
Drama / 2008 / 113 min
Julia, a 25 year-old university student, two weeks pregnant, with no criminal record, is sent to prison. Julia murdered the father of her child. This story addresses maternity, jail and Justice; confinement, guilt and solitude; but above all it deals with Julia and her son, Tomas, born inside an Argentinean prison.
EL LADO OSCURO DEL CORAZÓN (The dark side of the heart)
Drama / 1992 / 127 min
Oliverio is a young poet living in Buenos Aires where sometimes he has to sell his ideas to an advertising agency to make a living or exchange his poems for a steak. In Montevideo, he meets a prostitute, Ana, with whom he falls in love. Back in Buenos Aires, he accepts a contract with a publicity agency to get the money for three days of love with her. After the screening the artist Marcelo Novo will conduct a debate and a tour through his exhibit, “Parallel Worlds”, inspired in some elements of this film.
MUJERES DE LA SHOÁ (Women of the Shoah)
Universidad de La Matanza
Documentary / 2006-2007 / 45 min
It is a testimonial film that revives and reconstructs the persecution and the atrocity that Jewish women went through during the Holocaust. This documentary films shows, by means of survivors’ testimonies, the fundamental role that those women played fighting and resisting oppression, mistreatment, degradation, and death.
THE SOUND OF RIO: BRASILEIRINHO
Documentary / 2005 / 90 min
The Sound of Rio: Brasileirinho is a musical documentary film about choro, the first genuinely Brazilian urban music, which has evolved over the last century into a fascinating modern tropical sound. Blending European melodies, Afro-Brazilian rhythms, and the melancholic music of Brazilian Indians, choro was the first musical expression of Brazil’s melting pot. Its sound fused with the country’s burgeoning cultural identity, influencing every Brazilian composer for generations, and leading directly to popular musical styles such as Samba and Bossa Nova.
The film explores the fascinating history of choro but focuses on its vitality today, as Brazil’s younger generation rediscovers and reinterprets this classic style. Directed by Mika Kaurismäki, The Sound of Rio: Brasileirinho features performances by Trio Madeira Brasil, Paulo Moura, Yamandú Costa, Marcos Suzano, Elza Soares, Teresa Cristina, Zezé Gonzaga, and many more.
THE HOUSE OF SAND
Drama / 2005 / 115 min
Filmed entirely on the magnificent, sandy coast of northern Brazil, Áurea’s saga begins in 1910, in Maranhão, where her fanatical husband has relocated his family to start a farm. Desperate and pregnant, Áurea longs to return to the city, but cannot traverse the dunes with her aging mother, Maria in tow. When calamity strikes, the two women find themselves stranded. Eventually, they settle among the shifting sands and Áurea finds peace. But her passionate daughter, Maria, longs to explore the world beyond the dunes. This profund portrait of passing generations has established Andrucha Waddignton as one of the most exciting directors in Brazil today.
A UN METRO DE TI (A METER AWAY FROM YOU)
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THE LIFE OF FISH (La Vida de los Peces)
Drama / 2010 / 84min
At a house party, a handsome man wanders around catching up with friends he has not seen for some years. A travel writer now based in Berlin, Andre appears to be living an exciting international life, and yet… something has drawn him back home to Santiago. As the night goes on, we realize that a tragedy binds this group – an event that was also the impetus for Andre’s departure from Chile years ago. Moreover, there is someone at the party he goes to great lengths to avoid. But she is the very person he most needs to see.
CIELO ROJO (Red Sky)
Miguel Alejandro Gómez
Drama / 2008 / 85 min.
Bernie, Manuel, and Nestor just graduated from high school, and have no plans for the future. Unsatisfied with the opportunities Costa Rica presents, the boys decide to concentrate on mundane activities. However, over the course of a few days, key events in the boys’ personal lives conspire to make a disinterested lifestyle difficult. After a break-up with his girlfriend, Bernie reconsiders going to college, in hopes of repairing his relationship. In the midst of an identity crisis brought on by concerned adults, Manuel tries to survive mental confusion.
Bound by revolutionary spirit, the friends must handle their internal conflicts individually and as a group.
A OJOS CERRADOS
Drama / 2010 / 65 min.
This piece centers on the relationships within one Costa Rican family, largely between a young woman and her elderly grandparents. When life brings both granddaughter and grandfather to a crossroads, they must each choose a new path to follow; together, they travel to the eastern Caribbean coast seeking healing and renewal. This story is told with compassion, and a unique insight into bonds of love.
Drama / 2011 / 96 min.
Two distinct faces, from the everyday life of a couple of kids. Habanastation tells the story of two children from different social backgrounds that contrast in an adventure that unites them, and was filmed in the working-class neighborhood of Marianao, Havana, Cuba. Starring Andy Fornaris and Ernesto Escalona and featuring a cast of children from the “La Colmenita” National Children’s Theater Group. This is Cuba’s official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 84th Academy Awards 2012). In July 2011, it received the Founders Prize Best of Fest award —shared with France’s ‘Romantics Anonymous’ by Jean-Pierre Améris — of the Traverse City Film Festival (TCFF), in Michigan.
SOY TATA NGANGA (I Am Tata Nganga)
Documentary / 2011 / 22 min.
It tells about the life of a 93-year-old priest of Afro-Cuban religions- and, in particular, the mystical, magical world of the Palo Monte tradition. It is homage to the faith and spirituality of a man who has dedicated close to 60 years of his life to helping others. It includes scenes in he, his godchildren and others take part in various religious rituals in La Hata, Guanabacoa, Havana, Cuba, and features a procession honoring Saint Lazarus the Miraculous. This documentary will be of great interest to students and faculty, health care professionals, anthropologists, filmmakers, and all those interested in spiritual and cultural traditions and the African diaspora. It was made in the occasion of the Year of Afro-descendants, designated by UNESCO.
Documentary / 2011 / 33 min.
It is about the 1961 Cuban Literacy Campaign, two years after the Revolution, when 100,000 youth were recruited to go to the countryside to teach peasants how to read and write. Within one year, these teachers, the majority of them young women and teenage girls, taught 707,000 Cubans to read and write, eradicating illiteracy, according to UNESCO standards, in one of the most successful literacy campaigns ever in the world. Cuba’s model of achieving Literacy is currently being adopted in over 50 nations. Maestra celebrates this amazing story on the 50th anniversary of the literacy campaign through original film footage of the period, photographs and personal interviews of the teachers who are now in their 60′s, 70′s and 80′s. As they tell their stories, the Cuban women reflect on the transformation of their own lives and the whole of Cuban society as a result of the literacy campaign. For most, it was the first time these women experienced independence and realized their power.
ESO QUE ANDA (Van Van Fever)
Documentary / 2010 / 75 min.
Since 1969, Juan Formell and The Van Van have been, without any doubt, the most popular Orquestra in Cuba. Throughout their national tour, in 2006, more than 1 million dancers vibrated with their music, it tells their story in their first 40 years.
This documentary has received many awardas such as the – Special Award of the Jury – Fest. of New Filmmakers (2010), Best Documentary 1st Award – Int. Fest.Santiago Alvarez (2010), – Sound Design Award- Int. Fest. Santiago Alvarez Best Award(2010), Matamoros Center Award- Int. Fest. Santiago Alvarez Award(2010) , Elvira Cape Award – Int. Fest. Santiago Alvarez Award (2010), International Fair -Cubadisco- Best Documentary Award (2010).
YASUNÍ: DOS SEGUNDOS DE VIDA (Yasuní: Two seconds of Life)
Documentary / 2010 / 90 min.
Yasuní – two seconds of life is about Ecuador’s unique suggestion to leave the oil found in Yasuní national park untouched. The documentary sheds light on an exceptional offer to the world and lets every party involved have a say, be it politicians, scientists, representatives of oil companies or indigenous people. This extensive, partly disturbing picture is rounded out by a musical journey through Ecuador.
AUSENTES (The Missing Ones)
Documentary / 2009 / 36 min.
AUSENTES is an intimate look at the emotional relationships between mothers and children separated by distance because of immigration, and the physical and legal barriers that prevent them from reuniting.
Three women, on the threshold of hope for a better life in the United States, face the challenges of daily living in a new country, while trying to maintain the love for the children they left behind in El Salvador and Honduras, in order to forge a better future for their families. Fragile memories, deep emotions and feelings mark the lives of these women: Esmeralda, Mary and Rossmery, and their sons: Esau, Walter and Leonel, now teenagers, trying to create with their illusions a fragmented family portrait, with many pieces lost by time and absence.
This documentary explores family life in both the villages of Central America and the urban settings of the United States, in search of an intimate perspective of family relations. The audiovisual production takes us on a journey to the villages where the immigrants came from and where their children still live, and to the American cities where their integration to their new lives takes place in increasingly challenging environments.
CELDA 211 (Cell 211)
Thriller / 2009 / 113 min.
A novice prison official has the back luck of starting a new job on the same day the prisoners organize a mutiny. Entangled by the capricious and tragic circumstances, he must make the most of his own greatest resource: his intelligence. Discovering e is far from the shy, weak an even good man he has long considered himself, he finds he is a born survivor on the edge of an abyss. Goya Award for Best Feature Film 2010.
LA MUJER SIN PIANO (Woman without Piano)
Drama / 2009 / 94 min.
Woman without piano is the portrait of an anonymous housewife at the turn of the XXI century in Madrid. The main character is a married woman. For her, nothing compares to the intimate satisfaction of watching a piping hot dish served, on time, for lunch. The movie shows 24 hours in her domestic, professional and sexual everyday life – a life she flees from one night. The film is the tale of what happens during that night. Some might say this movie reflects the alienation of a housewife, but the story is really about a woman on the brink of menopause, a woman with no friends and no social life. She has devoted her life to her family, she doesn’t think she is pretty, she hates her hair… and just slips into the strangeness of the night. Because when night falls, a fun, dark and absurd new world rises. Best Director San Sebastian Film Festival 2009.
LOS CONDENADOS (The Condemned)
Drama / 2009 / min.
Two ex-guerrillas reunite at an illegal excavation site to look for the body of a third colleague who disappeared 30 years ago. But they are no longer the same people they used to be. The tension builds and secrets kept for so long gradually come to light as they progress in the search for their friend. FIPRESCI-Critics Award / San Sebastian Film Festival 2009.
LA VERGÜENZA (Shame)
Drama / 2009 / min.
Pepe and Lucia can’t do anything with Manu. They have tried everything, but it is useless: the child they adopted barely a year ago it just too much for them and they have decided to send him back. However, they soon realize the price they will have to pay if they go on with their plan. Best Feature Film and Screenplay / Málaga Spanish Film Festival 2009.
Drama / 2011 / 103 min.
Fonsi is a twelve year-old child with an apparently privileged life. As we get to know his dysfunctional family, we watch his world crumble in a matter of hours. Due to a series of unexpected events the destiny of the characters changes drastically as they’re confronted with a crude reality.
LA VACA (The Cow)
Comedy / 2011 / 97 min.
A simple misunderstanding triggers the funniest scenario imaginable around the town cow. An inheritance hangs on the balance as two ladies must grant their beloved’s last wish: Get the cow pregnant. Without the slightest clue as to how to get the task done, the two women decide to “take the cow by the horns” and prepare the bovine for the bull that someone has offered to effect the act.
Apparently everything goes according to plan as the two women manage to get the town cow in the same room with a 3 ton bull. All the effort has been in vain, however, as the town lawyer and best friend of the deceased reveals that a faulty translation of the defunct’s last wish has caused the misunderstanding.
ALMAS DE MEDIA NOCHE (Midnight Souls)
Juan Carlos Fanconi
Terror/ 2001 / 120 min.
“Midnight Souls” is a story based on religious beliefs on the afterlife. A journalist (Mario Jaen), who was investigating the mysterious death of locals from a town named “White Cross of Yojoa”, was murdered. Alex (Juan Fernando Lobo) and five of his friends, all from the upper class, organize a trip to cover a research paper for their Journalism class, and thinking it was all just a game, they open the doors to hell and discover the truth hidden for more than 200 years by the indian Lencas. They play a game of legends, where secrets are revealed and where a misstep can lead you to death. The six friends are classmates and students to the ruthless professor Guillermo Zola. Their lives gain significance after enduring a great experience, where no one believed in God’s existence or salvation. A Lenca Priest (Felipe Acosta) opens their eyes, and in a midnight stigmata, they each starting repenting inside theirs sins’ purgatory.
SILVESTRE PANTALEÓN (Silvestre Pantaleon)
Roberto Olivares Ruiz
Documentary / 2011 / 65 min.
The story of an elderly man from the Nahuatl-speaking village of San Agustin Oapan, Guerrero, Mexico. Silvestre Pantaleon follows the protagonist as he struggles to pay for a curing ceremony and provide for his family. He dedicates himself to the only remunerative activities he knows: handcrafting rope for religious ceremonies and building seldom-used household objects that he alone still has the skills to produce. Silvestre Pantaleon is a simple though universal tale of aging, told with a lyrical combination of lingering imagery and detail.
Best feature length documentary, Morelia International Film Festival , México, 2011.
LA MALETA MEXICANA (The Mexican Suitcase)
Documentary / 2011 / 86 min.
The story of three lost boxes, found in a closet in Mexico City in 2007, that disappeared in the chaos of Europe at the beginning of World War II. Contained in the titular suitcase were 4,500 photo negatives, the work of three young European photographers: Robert Capa, David “Chim” Seymour and Gerda Taro. Exiles from different places (Hungary, Poland, Germany), they had become friends in Paris, then traveled to Spain together to fight fascism with their cameras. This fascinating documentary from Trisha Ziff (CHEVOLUTION, 2008 Silverdocs) explores not only the historical mystery of how this photographic treasure trove came to be stashed—and nearly forgotten—in a modest Mexico City apartment, but also the living history of people affected by the Spanish Civil War: in Spain, the contemporary descendants of the defeated Republicans; in Mexico, the refugee children—now senior citizens—who fled war-torn Spain for the safety of a new home. Official Selection, 2011 Karlovy Vary, Los Angeles Latino and San Sebastian Film Festivals.
KARAI NORTE (The Man from the North)
Short / 2009 / 20min.
In just 20 minutes the director through his black and white images describes solitude, poverty, and human feelings in our continent. A Paraguayan tale that reminds us to Juan Rulfo.
LOS PARAGUAYOS (The Paraguayans)
Documentary /2007/ 53min.
The Paraguayan a documentary that covers key moments in the formation of Paraguayan identity, from the Guarani Nation, to our days. In 53 minutes, this documentary unleashes enigmatic knots, a reality full of contrasts, a country that has both real and imaginary.
Estranho Caso de Angélica (The Strange Case of Angelica)
Manoel de Oliveira
Fiction / 2010 / 94 min
Isaac is a young photographer living in a boarding house in Régua. In the middle of the night, he receives an urgent call from a wealthy family to come and take the last photograph of their daughter, Angelica, who died just a few days after her wedding. Arriving at the house of mourning, Isaac gets his first glimpse of Angelica and is overwhelmed by her beauty. As soon as he looks at her through the lens of his camera, the young woman appears to come back to life just for him. Isaac instantly falls in love with her. From that moment on, Angélica will haunt him night and day, until exhaustion.
Daniel and Diego Vega
Comedy / 2010 / 83 min
OCTUBRE, the first feature film from brothers Daniel and Diego Vega, is a deadpan dark comedy incorporating influences ranging from Jim Jarmusch and Aki Kaurismaki to Robert Bresson, and winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival-Un Certain Regard.
Clemente is a moneylender in Lima, Peru and all of his personal relationships are qualified by money. Money is his guiding compass and determines the people he lends to and the prostitutes he frequents. It’s a lonely existence that is turned upside down when he returns home to discover an abandoned baby left in his charge. Clemente tries to care for the baby himself; but Sofia, one of his clients, goes in search of the birth mother —a prostitute he once visited. Sofia, lonely for companionship, attempts to bring this unlikely family together. The film is set in Lima during the month of October when thousands join processions celebrating the Lord of Miracles, as purple-smocked devotees carry Peru’s unique image of Christ.
LA SOGA (The Rope)
Action / 2009 / 103 min.
Writer-producer-star Manny Perez’s hard-hitting crime story pulls no punches in its tale of a government enforcer/hit man whose personal code of honor causes him to question the morality of the people he works for. Perez plays Luisito, “La Soga” (“The Rope”), who, along with his partner, Tavo (Hemky Madera), administers rough justice to drug dealers at the direction of General Colon (Juan Fernandez), chief of the secret police. A budding romance with Jenny (former Miss Universe Denise Quiñones) makes Luisíto consider getting out of the game, just as drug kingpin Rafa (Paul Calderon), the man who murdered Luisíto’s father, returns to the Dominican Republic after years away in New York. Official Selection, 2009 Toronto Film Festival.
LA HIJA NATURAL (Love Child)
Drama / 2011 / 96min.
After her mother dies in an accident, 18 year old Maria decides to look for the father she never met. As a child, this simple and sensitive young girl picked up the strange habit of putting ladybugs in her mouth. Maria travels to a nearby town taking what few belongings she has and a puzzling red dress her mother kept mysteriously hidden under her bed. Maria finds her father Joaquin living in a dark old house located in the middle of an abandoned banana plantation, which the locals claim to be haunted by spirits. He lives there alone, with an enigmatic Haitian called Montifa as his only company.
Drama / 2005 / 100 min.
Pamela (Roxana Blanco) is a small and shy woman. She works in a supermarket, attends a religious temple and periodically visits her autistic mother. An anonymous character, a meaningless life. Suddenly, a miracle occurs. Messages of a marvelous destiny start to reach Pamela in unusual ways: a client, a transvestite, her own mother, dreams, barcodes, real and imaginary signals.
Drama / 2005 / 100 min.
Basilio (Jorge Visca) is a kindhearted person. Dominated by his wife (Mariana Olazabal), humiliated by his colleagues, despised by the man who walks his dog. Basi can’t bear it anymore and falls apart. In the middle of his suicide Irene (Lucia Carlevari) appears and his life changes.
Romance / 2009 / 90 min.
Jara (Horacio Camandule), a big and shy supermarket security guard, discovers a cleaning woman (Leonor Svarcas) through the surveillance cameras and falls in love with her. Soon, Jara’s life starts to turn into a series of rituals and routines around the woman and the desire to get to know her.
EL BAÑO DEL PAPA (The Pope’s Toilet)
Enrique Fernandez & César Charlone
Drama / 2007 / 97 min.
In Melo, a poor Uruguayan country town near the Brazilian border, several men earn their living from contraband, mostly transported on bicycles. One of them, Beto (Cesar Troncoso), is getting too old for heavy freights but hopes to earn enough to buy a motorbike. The announced Pope’s visit to Uruguay and his passing by near the town to be cheered by hordes of catholic Brazilians made Beto to think about building a proper lavatory and charge for its use.
ARTIGAS LA REDOTA
Histórica / 2011 / 118 min.
In 1884, the famous painter Juan Manuel Blanes received the order to recover the image of a legend.
His sources are the notes of Guzmán Larra, the Spanish spy who, 70 years earlier, had tried to assassinate the leader José Artigas.
This is the same leader who, harassed by two empires and accused by the people of Buenos Aires, emigrated with a group of migrant fugitives, camping along the banks of the Ayuí Stream.
In the face of adversity, and searching for their destinies, these three men arrived at the same crossroads: the passage has no point of arrival but only a point of departure.
DUDAMEL: EL SONIDO DE LOS NIÑOS (Dudamel: Let the Children Play)
Alberto Arvelo Torrealba
Documentary / 2010 / 84 min
Children’s and youth orchestras are emerging in many countries of the world, inspired by the Venezuelan musical and educational program ” El Sistema”, which immerses children in the world of music, art, team work, discipline, cooperation, fun, learning, creativity, and high values.
Gustavo Dudamel, the amazingly gifted Venezuelan conductor, entirely educated in ” El Sistema”, leads this journey through the stories of some of the young people who are experiencing the joy of music in the most diverse and contrasting corners of the world. These children are bringing a simple message to all of us: art is a universal right.
Filmed in seven different countries, “DUDAMEL: Let the Children Play” is an opportunity to glimpse the world of orchestras, conducting, and the importance of art as a hopeful path to face the educational crisis worldwide. “DUDAMEL: Let the Children Play” is a story of hope for the future unfolding right now.
ZAMORA, TIERRA Y HOMBRES LIBRES ( Zamora, Free Land and Men)
Historical Fiction / 2009 / 128 min
Venezuela, middle of 19th century. Polarization between Liberals and Conservatives in Venezuela marked the political agenda of the period. The inequalities of colonial society kept farmers and slaves under the oligarchy’s yoke. Ezequiel Zamora a hero of his time, took it upon himself to fight for the equal rights of peasants and farmers afflicted by the class struggle that was caused by wealthy landowners.
TAITA BOVES (Taita Boves)
Luis Alberto Lamata
Historical Fiction / 2010 / 100 min
Taita Boves chronicles a thirst for revenge that devastated a country. It tells the true story of Jose Tomás Boves, a cruel man who became a legend during the Venezuelan War of Independence, the most violent in the Americas. He went from seafarer to pirate, horse smuggler to prosperous merchant, prisoner to military chief. Spanish by birth, he spearheaded a grass roots troop of slaves, mulattoes, Indians and mestizos that crushed Simón Bolívar and his patriot army. Respectfully referred to as “Taita” by them, he fought for the underprivileged and the poorest of the poor, and curtailed three centuries of order in this colonial region. This film is about his passions and power, his loves and misadventures, and a bloody saga that rocked Venezuela.
TAMBORES DE AGUA , UN ENCUENTRO ANCESTRAL (Water Drums, an ancestral encounter)
Documentary / 2009 / 75 min
Framed in a contemporary cultural discourse of resistance, this documentary -shot in both Venezuela and Cameroon- research the traditions of Venezuelan black communities descendants from the Maroons. Through the ringing sound of water, the Water Drum claims the collective memory and becomes binding for the encounter between Africa and their descendants in Venezuela.