Director: Margot Benacerraf
Beautiful cinematic portrait of a day in the life of three families living in one of the harshest places on earth – the salt marshes of the Araya peninsula in Venezuela.
Benacerraf’s film portrays a day in the life of three families living in one of the harshest places on earth — Araya, an arid peninsula in northeastern Venezuela. For 450 years, since its discovery by the Spanish, the region’s salt was manually collected and stacked into glowing white pyramids. Overlooking the area, a 17th-century fortress built to protect against pirate raids stood as a reminder of the days when the mineral was worth as much as gold and great fortunes were made in the salt trade. Benacerraf captures the grueling work of these salineros in breathtaking high-contrast black-and-white images. Her camera gracefully pans and glides to reveal the landscape and the people of the peninsula. All night, the Pereda family toils in the salt marshes. In the morning, the Salaz clan arrives to load and stack the crystals under the hot brutal sun. Down the coastline, the Ortiz family fish and tend their nets, while the youngest member, Carmen, collects seashells and coral.
When it first premiered, ARAYA was compared to Robert Flaherty’s Man of Aran and Luchino Visconti’s La terra trema. But according to the filmmaker, the film was never meant to be a documentary — it was meticulously planned as a tone poem — a composition in which cinematography, music, sound and language combine to create a moving and magical exploration of a desolate place and the remarkable people who lived there. ARAYA is a film of such lasting beauty that Jean Renoir told Benacerraf, “Above all … don’t cut a single image!”