“The Liberator,” which premiered in Venezuela on Thursday, July 24, will open in the U.S. on August 22.
The movie narrates the life of Simon Bolivar, one of South America’s most important heroes during the 19thcentury independence wars against the Spanish Empire. While “The Liberator” probably will not make $1 billion USD at the box-office like ‘Transformers 4,’ the movie’s production value is a major accomplishment.
The budget for producing ‘The Liberator’ was an approximate $50 million USD, more than a significant amount for any Latin American production company. It is important to stress that it did not receive funds from the Venezuelan government. The film is a co-production of Venezuela’s Producciones Insurgentes and Spain’s San Mateo Films.
‘The Liberator’ stars the Venezuelan actorEdgar Ramirezas Simon Bolivar and was directed by the renowned Venezuelan director, Alberto Arvelo. It was filmed in various Venezuelan and Spanish cities like Caracas and Segovia, respectively. The tagline of the film’s English poster is the provocative question “What kind of Man would Defy an Empire?”
According to reports, ‘The Liberator’ has already been a big hit, some 90 thousand people saw the film in its first weekend out in Venezuela. Meanwhile, Ramirez has received positive reviews for his portrayal of the South American hero. Nevertheless, some movie critics stress that the film summarizes Bolivar’s 47-year lifespan in two hours skims over important events.
History and Modern Politics
In spite of its success, ‘The Liberator’ has caused controversy. Ramirez has remarked how Bolivar’s image and legacy “has been utilized by the Latin American right and left for several years.” He added that the late-Hugo Chavez of Venezuela was “obsessed’ with Bolivar. While actors usually try to stay away from politics when promoting a film, Ramirez has been outspoken about his beliefs.
A fellow actor, Roque Valero, in turn critiqued Ramirez’s remarks. He tweeted that “Chavez did not speak about Bolivar obsessively, he simply taught us to be Bolivarians and that cannot be matched with special effects.”
The Venezuelan media speculates that Valero may be jealous. He recently starred as Bolivar in a government-supported movie entitled‘Bolivar el hombre de las dificultades,’whose success paled in comparison to ‘The Liberator.’
Artistic differences aside, the Venezuelan government has welcomed “The Liberator,” with PresidentNicolas Maduroalready a fan.
He argued that Ramirez’s portrayal of Bolivar “is the most pro-Chavista Bolivar that we have seen […] Edgar Ramirez turned [Bolivar] into a human being of flesh and bone, into our liberator.” President Maduro also praised the other ‘Bolivar’ film, which Valero starred, but it seems like the Venezuelan leader preferred the recently-released adaptation.
Conspiracies and Artistic Licenses
As for the aforementioned references to the late Chavez, he was a well-known fan of Bolivar. In 2010 he took the very controversial decision of exhuming Bolivar’s body to determine how he died in 1830.
It is generally accepted that Bolivar died of tuberculosis. However, some people, including the late Venezuelan leader, believe that he was murdered. Ultimately, a 2012 report by the doctors who examined Bolivar’s remains determined that he had died of chronic breathing problems, not tuberculosis (nor was he murdered).
The movie’s ending has also been critiqued. Instead of Bolivar dying due to sickness (either tuberculosis or breathing problems), he is murdered by a group of conspirators. The screenwriter, Timothy Sexton, argues that “when you make a historical movie you have to take certain [artistic] licenses, but you have to remain faithful to [actual] events.”
The film may just be a film, but even commercial productions have to be placed in the proper context.
Theoretically Caracas did not have influence on the script or how Bolivar was portrayed because it did not fund film. But is the film ending a sign of Caracas’ influence or simply a decision by the producers? Moreover, should movies be allowed to change important events, i.e. how an international hero died, in order to add dramatic shock value?
A U.S. Hit?
‘The Liberator’ is already a hit in Venezuela and its momentum will likely translate into a good reception across Latin America. It will be important to see how the film performs when it is released in the U.S. in late August.