Despite challenges, two Venezuelan films make the Miami Film Festival (includes video story)

The Miami Film Festival, which starts today, celebrates two Venezuelan films “Back to Life” by Luis Carlos and Alfredo Hueck, and “The Shadow of the Sun” by Miguel Angel Ferrer. Both are nominated for the Marimbas Award, which goes to international films that exemplify richness and resonance for cinema’s future. 

The films depict Venezuelan values and the importance of resilience, humor and family to achieve goals. We spoke to the directors of both films and documented their experience in producing these movies in Venezuela.

“Back to Life” (Vuelve a La Vida) by Luis Carlos & Alfredo Hueck.

Alan Grynbal and Jose Ramon Barretto play the Hueck brothers in the film. (Image courtesy of the Hueck brothers)

Set in 1996 Venezuela, “Vuelve a La Vida” focuses on overcoming adversity with love, family and comedy. Based on the true story of the Hueck brothers, the film follows Ricardo (Jose Ramon Barreto), a teenager who returns to Venezuela after spending one year studying in New York. His parents welcome him with a surprise party and the promise of a family vacation. Instead, Ricardo prefers to spend time with his best friends and sets out on a road trip along the beautiful Venezuelan coast. During this trip, Ricardo experiences a sudden tragedy that changes his life and that of his family forever.

Alfredo Hueck & Luis Carlos Hueck. (Image courtesy of the Hueck brothers).

“It is a very emotional film,” said Alfredo Hueck. “One way or another it touches your soul.”

The Hueck brothers combine moments of humor with a heartfelt narrative. Still, the brothers insist that this combination is a regular theme in all their work.

 “The movie is about overcoming tragedy and the best way to do it is with humor,” said Alfredo. “What we did was portray the Venezuelan essence on the big screen.”  

Starting the production process back in 2016, the Hueck brothers experienced many challenges filming this movie, including extreme economic hardship in Venezuela, pausing the premier of the film due to the pandemic, and struggling with national distribution. “Back to Life” finally premiered in Venezuela back in December 2023.

The Miami Film Festival will host the U.S. premiere, with two screenings. Sunday, April 7 at 8 p.m. at  SilverSpot Cinema 13, and Saturday, April 13 at 6 p.m. at the Koubek Center. The directors will join the audience with a Q&A after the screenings. 

The directors expressed excitement to participate in the film festival and be nominated for the Marimbas Awards. They also highlighted the evolution of Venezuelan cinema and the importance of international representation.

“We feel happy that despite the crisis we were able to move forward with this film, and that new Venezuelan films have come out and are playing internationally, it will open more doors, even for us,” said Luis Carlos Hueck.

The Shadow of the Sun” (La Sombra del Sol) by Miguel Angel Ferrer.

Miguel Angel Ferrer alongside his production team. (Image courtesy of Miguel Angel Ferrer).

Ferrer considers his film a love letter to the Venezuelan spirit. He insists this is what makes the story so relatable to the international community. 

In the intense 18 days of production, Ferrer and his team needed to overcome many hardships. The Venezuelan infrastructure of movie production is already limited, and the challenges rise exponentially in a rural town such as Acarigua. These ranged from electricity shortages to locals warning the movie team that due to the economic downfall of the town’s zoo, a tiger might be lurking in the dark. 

“We were well prepared to navigate through all obstacles,” he said. “At that time, there was no electricity after 7 p.m. in Acarigua, so we needed a construction power plant and park it 300 meters away connected through cables that our team prepped three hours before shooting.” 

“The Shadow of the Sun” plays a crucial part in Venezuela’s movie industry, not only because it was the one selected as the country’s representation for last year’s Oscars, but also because it sets a standard for the inclusion of the deaf community on the big screen with Anyelo Lopez who plays Alex, the hear-impaired protagonist.

The entire cast studied sign language for two months before shooting. In addition, Ferrer worked alongside interpreters to make sure every sign said the right thing and was at the right angle. 

“The deaf community is supporting the movie everywhere we go and we love what is happening,” he said. 

The movie already sold out two out of the three screenings. The last one available is Friday, April 12 at 9:30 p.m. at Regal South Beach 17.  Ferrer shared how he feels about the support he has received in the movie’s festival run. 

“I am very happy, I hope people keep watching it,” he said. “We knew what we were trying to say with this movie, and I believe the movie’s message is not solely Venezuelan but universal,” he said. 

Jose Carlos Rodriguez is a junior majoring in Digital Communication and Media. After graduation, he plans to pursue a career as a reporter in the entertainment industry.

Grecia Pacheco is a senior majoring in digital journalism. Appassionate with the truth and the news reporting, her career pathway is orientated to politics and international relations based on her goal to keep people informed about the importance of democracy and its impact on modern society.