GenreDocumentary Music directorGuy Bernard LanguageSpanish
WriterMargot Benacerraf, Pierre Seghers Release date1959 (Venezuela) CastJose Ignacio Cabrujas, Laurent Terzieff Similar moviesVenezuela movies, Documentaries
Araya is a 1959 Venezuelan-French documentary film directed by Margot Benacerraf and co-written by Benacerraf and Pierre Seghers. It depicts the lives of labourers who extract salt from the sea off the Araya peninsula in Venezuela. Their method for extracting salt, virtually unchanged for centuries, depends on gruelling physical labor, but provides a dependable, if meagre, living for the men and their families. The film ends with a recently built plant for mechanised salt extraction that could eliminate the community's traditional source of income.
Araya was produced by a two person crew consisting of Margot Benacerraf and her cameraman Giuseppe Nisoli. On arriving at the arid and barren landscape of the Araya pensinsula on the north coast of Venezuela Benacerraf remarked it was like "arriving on the moon". Although colour photography was available to Benacerraf and Nisoli, the decision was made to shoot in black and white, as it was deemed a more powerful way of portraying the subjects.
The Soundtrack to Araya includes sounds from the sea, remixed in diverse ways including playing in reverse. Benacerraf noted that the Andalusian polos songs, rare in Venezuela, had lasted due to the extreme isolation of the Araya community.
The film was entered into the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, where it shared the Cannes International Critics Prize with Alain Resnais's Hiroshima mon amour. The audience at Cannes doubted Benacerraf's claim that the film has been shot by a two-man crew, especially due to the dramatic shots from a crane, Benacerraf responded that they had merely made use of a vacant crane left at the mine.
In 2009, Milestone Films released Araya in North American theaters for the first time as well as rereleasing it internationally. Milestone also distributes a restored DVD version of the film.