Villa de Cine: Venezuelan government as film producer

December 2007 -

With government investments of more than thirteen million dollars, the Villa del Cine film complex that opened in Venezuela in 2006 is intended to significantly stimulate the local and Caribbean film industry. Not that Venezuela has ever lacked a blossoming film and television culture. "There are many script writers, directors and producers here who primarily make television productions and publicity campaigns. Villa del Cine will not add much to that," says Beto Benites, film maker and producer. He made the first film for Villa del Cine in 2006: Bolivar, a short digital film about Venezuela's freedom fighter Simon Bolivar.

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Scène from Bolivar

Villa del Cine is intended to break through the "dictatorship of Hollywood", as President Hugo Chávez refers to the American film industry. Hollywood stars including Kevin Spacey and Sean Penn have already visited the president in the film complex. "This initiative has actually made the state an enormous film producer that has enormously stimulated national film production. The complex offers more than 2400 square meters with not only two film studios but also post-production areas with the latest generation of digital film equipment. There are also studios for costume and setting design and a production office. This has never been seen before. Now, a year after the opening, five films have already been made in Villa del Cine," says Benites.

"Numerous sceptical reviews criticise the patriotic and political content of these early film productions. Some independent directors complain that more money has been spent on the complex than the entire film industry has received from the government in many, many years. There is a risk, however, that the project will drown in its own success. So many professional film makers and producers are needed now that the demand simply cannot be met. This is in part due to pressure from the existing television and publicity industry. This is why it is absolutely vital to train sufficient new film professionals in the short term."