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Venezuelan Prisoners Find Expression through Film

Behind the walls of the Penitentiary Center Los Teques, in central Venezuela, the atmosphere is less unpleasant than usual. In a small room the sounds of a bongo, a piano, a bass guitar and a harmonized chorus tune up with a strong voice singing: “Trouble is being, being in jail, loneliness, and loneliness, what loneliness...”


This is how the documentary, “Son cautivo, clave de libertad” (or Captive Sound, Key for Freedom), begins, which opens in theaters nationally on May 26th. This audiovisual project directed by Yaclyn Marcano is guided by the music of “Voces de Libertad” (Voices of Freedom), a group created more than three years ago by inmates at the penitentiary center mixing different tropical sounds.

The scene in the prison is a mix of soulful expression and longing. A prisoner sings a Colombian rhythm together with his daughter, another plays the guitar with his wife. A middle-aged inmate had a lump in his throat when he tried to explain he wanted to see his son and spend a day with him if he is allowed to go beyond the prison walls on conditional parole.

“We began to mix and play our human vibes with musical vibes. We began to know which of us had good voices and we researched sounds and instruments. We established contact and became friends. I found very human people, great people here, despite the cirumstances”, Ms. Marcano explained.

Former kettledrummer Cesar Rengifo, freed five months ago, commented that the group is one of the greatest lessons in his life. “I taught and learned in Voces de Libertad. I still keep in contact with the guys”.

The documentary defines the group as “a piece of the street inside prison” and as a respite from behind the confining walls for its members, many of them convinced that between the street and the group, they prefer the group. So, what began as a simple audiovisual project became a film which goes deep into each of the members’ lives of Voces de Libertad.

Screenwriter Israel Rojas explained it was necessary to be in the shoes of the 23 prisoners portrayed during the 47 minutes of the documentary. Venezuelan Cultural Ministry representative Valentin Nodas remarked that this documentary, more than sensationalistic journalism, shows the human aspect and the way culture becomes a tool for transformation.

“It shows that those Voices of Freedom have an impact on the streets. Those voices of freedom defeat the prison’s walls and communicate through them and with others”, Nodas said.

The documentary will premiere on the screens of Venezuela’s Cinemateca Nacional. It will be also sold in libraries and public bookstores on DVD, thanks to a collaboration with the national disc center, Cendis. The idea to make the documentary was thanks to the joint work of the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Interior Relations and Justice, and the director of Penitentiary Centers, Consuelo Cerrada.

“It shows the joint effort of a single government”, Cerrada said, and she stressed that the documentary will be also shown in prisons as a way to raise consciousness amongst the population.