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Meet the Artist: Anabel Rodríguez Ríos on ‘Once Upon a Time in Venezuela’

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Anabel Rodríguez Ríos attends the world premiere of ‘Once Upon a Time in Venezuela.’ ©2020 Sundance Institute | Photo by Miguel Mendoza

Sundance Institute

Latinx Heritage Month begins today,
September 15, and to celebrate, we’ll be spotlighting projects made by Latinx artists with ties
to Sundance Institute and the Sundance Film Festival. First up, watch
our interview with Venezuelan filmmaker Anabel Rodríguez Ríos, director of the 2020 Festival documentary
Once Upon a Time in Venezuela.


Anabel Rodríguez Ríos’s trip to Park City this January for the world premiere of Once Upon a Time in Venezuela was a long time coming. In fact, the filmmaker had been working on the project for nearly seven years before she sat down to talk with us during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

“In Venezuela, there is a totalitarian government, and many filmmakers are in exile,” Rodríguez Ríos explains of the obstacles she faced along the way. Still, she felt compelled to act, channeling her anger over her country’s political partisanship and corruption into a project that would become the first feature-length Venezuelan documentary to screen at Sundance.

The arts really have the power to move minds.

—Anabel Rodríguez Ríos

“I made a decision to stick to the human experience at the most grounded, normal, real level,” she says of the film,
which examines the country’s political and economic turmoil, as well as the resilience of the Venezuelan people, by honing in on a fight between residents of Congo Mirador—a village built on stilts in the middle
of Lake Maracaibo—and the country’s government over pollution,
corruption, and neglect.

“The arts really have the power to move minds,” she says of her
ambition for Once Upon a Time in Venezuela, which has gone on to screen at the
Houston Latino Film Festival, the ACT Human Rights Fest, and the Salem
Film Fest after making its debut at Sundance.

Below, hear more from our interview with the filmmaker, and stay tuned for an official release date for the project.


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