Jorge Thielen Armand / 2016, Venice, Atlanta, BAFICI Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Cinema, Biarritz International Festival of Latin American Cinema, Durban, Festival del Cine Venezolano, Festival Internacional de Cine de América Mexico, FICCI Cartagena, Granada, Havana, Hearthland, Istanbul, London Institute of Contemporary Arts - Frames of Representation, Miami, Munich, Nashville, Rhode Island, Sarasota, Trieste, World Cinema Amsterdam / 89'
José lives with his grandmother and young family in La Soledad, a dilapidated Caracas mansion. His quotidian life consists of construction work, promising his daughter a trip to the beach and standing in long lines to buy food and basic medicine. José then discovers that La Soledad's owners intend to demolish the crumbling structure, putting his and his family's existence suddenly at risk. Desperate to save his loved ones from homelessness, José becomes singularly fixated on finding a cursed treasure rumored to be buried in the house since colonial times.
Filmed with nonprofessional actors in real locations, La Soledad offers a rare glimpse into lived, human experience amidst the economic crisis in contemporary Venezuela. Having participated in the Venice Biennale College Cinema, Jorge Thielen Armand's feature film debut premiered at Venice, Atlanta, where it won the Special Jury Award; Biarritz, where it won the Prix du Syndicat Français de la Critique de Cinéma - Best Film; Durban, where it won Best Script and Best Editing; Festival del Cine Venezolano, where it won Best First Film and Best Sound; Miami where it won the Audience Award; Nashville, where it won a Honorable Mention; and Rhode Island, where it won Best Feature. La Soledad also won Best First Feature at the Museum of the Moving Image - Cinema Tropical Awards.
I remember discovering the vast gardens of great-grandma's house with José and my cousins; the stories of uncle Gonzalo had transformed La Soledad into a surreal place for us, and my encounters with the spirit of my great-grandfather drew me to this place all my life. I hadn't visited the house since I left Venezuela. I was away in North America for a while, but when I learned the house was going to be demolished I decided to return to Caracas. I wanted to make a film about my memories and the present of this dilapidated mansion with those who still lived there. My father brought me to the house, and I saw José for the first time in eleven years; he lives in La Soledad with his family. I proposed we make a film together and he agreed.
The question of why my family had ceased the ritual of gathering weekly and on holidays interested me. The answer can be simplistic: it is common that the family nucleus breaks up after a senior family figure dies. But haven't the challenges, imposed on us by our broken country, impacted our relationships as well? Fascinated by what was left behind in La Soledad, I had a desire to conduct a kind of familial archaeological investigation.
I find our vestiges coexisting with the belongings of a new family— cement barbells conquer the antique sewing table, garden fountains have been turned into fire pits, and motorcycles obstruct a six-foot painting in the once luxurious family room. The house is more than a metaphor for my family's dispersal— it encapsulates the reality of today's Venezuela, forgotten in time, inhabited by people who have hope but who are not provided with opportunities. Amidst the economic chaos that plagues the country, moral values are also fading. In the film we see this through José’s eyes, when he ventures into a hostile Caracas that provides no solutions to his real-life quest for a better future.
"[A] quietly insightful profile of present-day Venezuela… a quietly compelling item that appears to be part documentary, part realist fiction, with a faint edge of dream-like ghostliness"
"The strongest immediate impression initially comes from La Soledad, which has a documentary quality that is not accidental; the storyline, about a poor family living in a Caracas house that had been bequeathed, in a sense, to a one-time maid there, is acted out by a cast of real-life personages in something like that exact situation. It puts a human face on the economic catastrophe of contemporary Venezuela, something the rest of us only read about, and it does so in a way that's affectionate, sometimes humorous, sometimes poetic and ultimately devastating"
"Michelangeli's cinematography is a wonder, seamlessly transitioning from sunny, bright day shots in and around the villa to starkly lit intimate meetings and night rides through the city. One vivid shot in a grocery store lingers just long enough to leave quite a strong impression. The way José is lit, whether he is lying in silence in bed or using a metal detector to search the grounds for treasure, highlights his daily desolation"
"La Soledad, the extraordinary feature debut of Venezuelan filmmaker Jorge Thielen Armand, is a strikingly intimate and humane tale that is simultaneously about a house, a family, a city, and a nation"
"Combining sharp social critique with the offbeat poetry of magical realism, La Soledad offers an engaging portrait of the effects of economic catastrophe on individuals' lives. Director Jorge Thielen Armand's debut feature, this film sees him return to La Soledad, a house in Venezuela once inhabited by his great-grandparents and now threatened with demolition. The house is dilapidated—antique portraits hang from crumbling walls and garden weeds force their way through the cracks—yet in the midst of Venezuela's economic and political crisis it has become a sanctuary for those who live there. La Soledad not only offers a lyrical evocation of a decaying world but also opens up new possibilities for documentary cinema"