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ORINOKO, NEW WORLD

Venezuela, 1984 (MIFF 1985)

Director: Diego Risquez

There are many aspects that make Orinoko, New World something rather special. First it was shot on Super 8 and blown up to 35mm with astonishing visual, textural results. Of its $US100,000 budget, $30,000 was used to achieve the effect desired on 35mm. Secondly, it comes from Venezuela which has not produced many films that have the kind of international acclaim one has become accustomed to with many other Latin American countries. Thirdly, it is the second part of a trilogy which began in 1980 with Bolivar, Symphony Tropical (which was shown in Cannes in Super 8 in 1981 and blown up to 35mm in 1982), and which is about to continue with America Tierra Incognita, to be produced in the same manner as the previous two films. Part One dealt with the setting up of Venezuela in the nineteenth century. Orinoko is concerned with the history of colonisation of Venezuela. The third part will explore the idea Europeans have of the colonial process. Fourthly, there is no dialogue in the film and the careful composition of the soundtrack is as remarkable and as innovative as its visual style.

The film is in nine sections, the first of which follow in choronological order - the key moments in the history of colonisation. In the first section an Indian shaman becomes drugged and hallucinates the future. The hallucinatory tableaux form the remainder of the film: Columbus arriving at the delta of Orinoko in 1498; a Catholic missionary tempted to a duel by an Indian shaman; Fernando Berrio searching thirstily and fruitlessly for El Dorado; Sir Walter Raleigh conquering the Spanish to initiate the English plunder of Venezuela; European "scientists" measuring and quantifying the land and the people, the final sequence based on the Popul Vuh.

Diego Risquez was involved in theatre and performance art for many years and was invited to put on an event at the First International Super 8 Festival of Caracas in 1975. He began, at that point, to be interested in the possibilities of Super 8. Essentially, the trilogy deals with myths, legends and fictions of reality set in pre-industrial Venezuela. It is the attempt to imagine Paradise before the coming of the Europeans and the exploration of the imagination of the wide variety of cultures that come to comprise Latin America in general. Shooting in Super 8 means that you can be much freer with places and use 20 cameras simultaneously. Peru, as well as Venezuela, has begun to effectively challenge the hegemony of the image in Latin America by these means, though few can afford to blow their work up to 35mm.

- Don Ranvaud

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