Saturday, 19 de Septiembre
National Hispanic Cultural Center, Bank of America Theater
Director: Carlos Caridad Montero
Carlos Caridad Montero’s highly acclaimed feature film debut 3 bellezas (“3 Beauties”) is here at CineMagnifico. 3 Bellezas is a black comedy about two Venezuelan national obsessions: beauty queens and plastic surgery. Although this may seem to solidify an already dangerous stereotype about Venezuelan society, director Caridad Montero has a skill for expressing what is known to be real, everyday life experience in his country, while also leveling a social critique through his film.
Perla, played by Diana Peñalver, is a former beauty queen who dreams, or more than dreams, about seeing her young daughter, Carolina, become a beauty queen like her mother. And Perla will do almost anything to see this happen, including damaging her relationship with her own family. With help from her sister, Estefania, Perla forces her daughters to endlessly practice the catwalk, teaches them how to diet and how to wear swimsuits and gowns the proper way. Through all of this hilarious dark humor, Caridad Montero manages to expose a cultural obsession with beauty familiar to most Venezuelans and to those living in many other nations, including our own. Certainly, this theme is not totally foreign to United States society, and calls to mind the iconic stereotype of beauty and culture in southern California.
Through his first several short films that made a splash in international festival circuits, Caridad Montero has gained the attention of the public and academic critics alike, a gap between styles of spectatorship that is often difficult to bridge. This speaks to the Maracaibo native’s ability and unique capacity to express in realistic terms the everyday life in popular Venezuelan society while simultaneously satisfying the academic desire to see a dynamic critique of this very same society that is being portrayed. Caridad Montero, before even delving into feature length films, has seemed to quickly master the art of making films that carry weighty social critiques, but only to the viewers that want to see them – for anyone else, it could seem like a movie that simply ‘expresses the reality’ of a life in Venezuela. In this way, Caridad Montero, with the release of his first feature length film, has quickly become one of Venezuela’s most important directors.
Perhaps one of the most important notes about Caridad Montero’s young career is that he studied film at the film school in San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba. It is evident in his work that when he returned to his home country of Venezuela after graduation, he not only was returning with a new tool belt of film technique, but also a new perspective on his own nation after having experienced life on the Caribbean island to the north.