Review: ‘Women of the Venezuelan Chaos’

Hot Docs 2018

3 mins read

Women of the Venezuelan Chaos
France, 83 Minutes
Dir. Margarita Cadenas.
Programme: Silence Breakers (North American Premiere)

A centrepiece of five mothers in the midst of the current Venezuelan socio-economic catastrophe, Women of the Venezuelan Chaos was directed by French-based Caracas-born filmmaker Margarita Cadenas and funded through an American non-profit founded by a Venezuelan émigré. Political pundits on the left and right may debate in op-ed pages whether Venezuela’s socio-economic collapse is the fault of a blinkered socialist ideology or an economic war waged by the anti-democratic opposition and international allies, but Cadenas’ film, from the ground’s eye perspective, has no problem finding the culprit. The film is an indictment of Nicolas Maduro’s regime, on everything from lying to the public about the extent of the shortages to the use of police violence.

We are introduced to the women in segments of 15 to 20 minutes in length. Kim, a nurse working two jobs at a hospital without sufficient supplies, is forced to choose who lives or dies. Maria José is a community worker, trying to stock up on black market supplies while her family struggles with the inconvenience of water rations and terror of street violence. Eva is an unemployed mother, who stays up through the night in a food queue and plans her escape to Colombia. Luisa, a retired police commissioner, recounts how her grandson was arrested and held for two years without trial. Most heart breaking is the story of Olga, a waitress, whose teen-aged son was executed in front of her by the police, who later admitted it was a case of mistaken identity. .

Cadenas’ presentation is primarily in the TV news-magazine mode, recording the subjects in their homes or workplaces, with occasional sallies through the busy streets of Caracas. Aesthetic embellishments are few and apparently random, including a speeded-up black and white sequence showing a mass scrum for groceries. The exception is the culminating sequence with Olga, which switches between direct interview and employment of the subject’s voice-over, to moody dissolves of her walking on the beach, accompanied by ominous strings and percussion.

The film finishes with a summary of how each of them women has fared since the film’s principal shooting last year. A title card says the Venezuelan crewmembers chose to keep their names anonymous for fear of reprisals.


Liam Lacey is a freelance writer for and POV, Canada’s premiere magazine about documentaries and independent films.

Previously, he was a film critic for The Globe and Mail newspaper from 1995 to 2015. He has also contributed to such publications as Variety, Cinema Scope, Screen, and Entertainment Weekly, as well as broadcast outlets CBC and National Public Radio.

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