Venezuelan Moviemaker Fights to See Her Tribeca Film Fest Premiere

Venezuelan filmmaker Marianne Amelinckx and a scene from her short "Salta," which has its world premiere at Regal Cinemas on April 22.  

Apr. 08, 2017

Of all the struggles young filmmakers face, getting to your own world premiere shouldnt be one of them.

But that's the prospct facing Venezuelan writer-director Marianne Amelinckx, 27, whose narrative short will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 22.

It took Amelinckx two years to make “Salta” (“Dive”), a quiet, visually arresting film about love, friendship and loss. At just 13 minutes long, it is the only film from her country selected for the festival, and the second Venezuelan film ever to make the cut.

When Amelinckx found out she had been chosen, she cried quiet tears of joy. Then reality set in.

Crippled by an ongoing financial crisis and the authoritarian rule of President Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela restricts the conversion of local currency into foreign currency. Without U.S. dollars, Amelinckx realized she couldn’t travel to the festival, where her film will screen for the first time at Regal Cinemas in Battery Park City.

“I immediately called my parents,” Amelinckx recalled during a recent phone interview, speaking from her home in Caracas. “They said, ‘You are going. We will figure it out. This kind of good news, you cannot let it pass you by.’”

Determined to make it to the screening, Amelinckx decided to turn to crowdfunding. She set up an online campaign, hoping to raise $3,350 for her plane ticket and expenses. On her deadline day of April 11, she was less than $100 away from her goal.

Fifty backers have opened up their wallets for the cause so far, making donations anywhere between $5 and $300. Amelinckx credits the campaign’s success to a short video she posted on the crowdfunding page, where she emptied out her “2016 Grateful Jar,” created during the filming of Salta and brimming with little slips of paper on which she wrote words of gratitude.

“People watched that video,” she said.”That grateful jar I have there is real. It is the best way to live, to say thank you.”

If Amelinckx does make it to the festival, she will be grateful not only to be able to see her film on the big screen, but to represent the people of her struggling nation.

“Salta isn’t a film about my country,” she said. “But I am Venezuelan. I can still talk about how I made the film, how difficult it was and maybe how [bad] things are in Venezuela right now.”

She said that despite being funded by the Venezuelan Film Committee, the short had to operate on a shoestring, facing unique challenges brought on by the country's financial crisis. She recalled one instance, before production began, when she went to take photographs of a local pool, which would serve as the film’s centerpiece location. It was beautiful, she said, a perfect clear blue. When she returned a month before shooting, it had turned a murky green because there were no cleaning supplies available in Venezuela.

“My film is called Salta, which means jump, and it ends with a jump into the pool,” she said. “That’s why you see something in the actress’s ear, she had to wear that because the water wasn’t clean.”

“It broke my heart to see the pool really dirty,” the filmmaker added. “It’s sad because there are a lot of athletes who want to practice and they can’t.”

In some ways, though, Amelinckx felt that the challenges upped her hustle—and has pushed the Venezuelan filmmaking community even harder.

“We are having a bad time here as a country, but that also makes us more creative,” she explained. “You have to work with what you get, play with what you have.”