Maldonado & Luisa de la Ville
"Everything in Venezuela is political so it becomes part of the film"
Over the last eight years, Venezuelan director Marianela Maldonado and producer Luisa de la Ville have been working on Children of las Brisas, a portrait of four children dreaming of a better life in music as their country is collapsing around them.
Maldonado began working on the project by herself in 2009, she explains “I had my camera and I went to Las Brisas, where they were opening a new music school. It was really amazing to see all these little kids in this poor and violent place who were suddenly falling in love with music, talking about Mozart and Beethoven, and dreaming about becoming professional musicians. Then Luisa became involved in 2011, and that's when we began shooting more properly. I filmed a lot in the first two years, but it was just me with a camera, I didn't even have a microphone.”
De la Ville got involved a few years later, as the kids and their stories kept evolving. They were growing up, encountering new obstacles and becoming better musicians. “They worked really hard, because this could be a way out of poverty”, De la Ville says. “But then, the El Systema music program under which the school was operating collapsed. That really gave a twist to what we were doing – it effected all of them, and so it effected us as well.”
It was a harbinger of worse things to come, as Venezuela went into free fall politically and financially. “You can see this political layer emerge in the film”, Maldonado says. “This is not a film about La Systema, it's about these kids and their families. Venezuela is a political country, everybody is talking about these issues all the time, and so it becomes part of the film.”
And even if the kids were not that involved in politics in the beginning, their parents were, De la Ville says. “They run into so many limitations just because of the place they come from.”
One of the kids they followed eventually became a well-known political activist, even being featured in The Guardian. “This is someone who wasn't interested in politics at all”, Maldonado explains. “But after a young violin player got killed, he started protesting with his violin at the front line. He wanted to show that it was a peaceful protest. Eventually he was jailed and tortured. He had to escape and flee the country, and now he lives in New York.”
After nine years of filming and development, the film is now close to being finished, with the duo pitching at IDFA Forum hoping to find presales and partners for postproduction, says Maldonado. The pitch was very exciting, De la Ville says. “I'm used to pitching a finished film, but this was such a different way of looking at things. I think it went well, we got some great feedback and several meetings.”
It feels like the right time to finish this story, now nine years in the making, Maldonado says. “Over the last year, we've spent most of our time reviewing the material and starting to give shape to it. We have the story, but we need a really good editor to navigate the enormous amount of material. It definitely feels like we're getting to an end point for the film. Two of the kids have left Venezuela, as have three of their teachers.” (JBH)
Luisa de la Ville (left) and Marianela Maldonado (right) at IDFA 2018, where they pitched at the IDFA Forum roundtable with their project Children of Las Brisas, which received IBF Classic - production support in 2014 and IBF Europe - Co-production support in 2018.