Simón, a Venezuelan film released less than a month ago, has already become the highest-grossing Venezuelan film of 2023. Directed by Diego Vicentini, the film tells the story of a student leader who seeks political asylum in the United States after being detained and tortured during anti-government protests in 2017. The film has surprised many by not being censored in Venezuela, where censorship of media and cultural works is common.
The release of Simón has been met with a bittersweet response. On the one hand, it has provided a therapeutic space for Venezuelans to heal and connect with the pain and trauma caused by the protests. Many have found solace in the collective experience of watching the film in theaters. On the other hand, the film serves as a reminder that the wounds caused by the government’s repression and violence are still open and affecting many people.
Diego Vicentini, the director of the film, believes in the power of cinema to generate empathy and create change. He has witnessed the impact of the film firsthand, with audiences in various cities sharing stories of personal experiences or expressing remorse for the mistreatment of Venezuelans. Vicentini hopes that Simón can contribute to ending the torture and violence that many Venezuelans are still facing.
The release of Simón has not been without controversy. The film, which won several awards at the Venezuelan Film Festival, received a certification stating that it could violate the Law against Hate and Peaceful Coexistence and carry hefty penalties. The hate law, considered unconstitutional by human rights organizations, has been used by the Maduro government to suppress criticism. Despite the potential risks, Simón was allowed to screen in the country.
There are speculations that the government permitted the release of Simón because it portrays the failure of those seeking a change of government in Venezuela. However, Vicentini believes that the government’s decision is more about creating a climate of fear and uncertainty. The fear of repercussions, such as arrest and torture, has led to self-censorship among the population.
Simón has not just made an impact within Venezuela; it has also been seen in multiple cities in Latin America, the United States, and Spain. The film was selected by the Venezuelan Film Academy to compete as a Latin American film at the Goya Awards.
Overall, Simón has been a powerful and emotional film that has resonated with audiences both in and outside of Venezuela. Its success and impact highlight the urgency to address the ongoing human rights violations in the country.