Mar 13, 2008


There's an interesting coincidence during my current stay in Caracas. Last Monday, TVES, the government network that stands on the spoils of the closing of RCTV, premiered its first telenovela Caramelo e Chocolate (Candy and Chocolate or Chocolate candybar). Written by Carlos Pérez, a writer who handles well humor and colloquial language, the telenovela's topic is racism in Venezuela. Ironically, RCTV had already tackled this issue in telenovela Negra Consentida without much success.

In Venezuela racism and class-ism are linked in such a way that they aren't easily differentiated. Both are evident in popular culture, daily conversations, jokes and in the disdainful expressions used in colloquial language when referring to people of darker skin. Racism in Venezuela also hides behind the permanent comparison with the manifestations of racism in the U.S.

For all these reasons I was very interested in watching the first episode of Caramelo e Chocolate, which was preceded by positive press critiques However, I must acknowledge that I couldn't see much of the telenovela's thesis in its first episode. Only a small glimpse in the first scene. The episode had more content related to the topic of esoteric beliefs than to racism. The writing did not surprise me in a positive way. It has very short scenes that don't allow the spectator to really "feel." (In telenovelas, the spectacle of emotions, feeling is very important). Transitions between scenes are underdeveloped, and the direction is a bit on and off.

Production also needs some fine tuning. There's a lot of background noise that needs to be cleaned up in post-production, and the music is not incidental but continuous; therefore, it doesn't add to the story.

There weren't any performances that captured my imagination. Most are average or frankly deficient. I will give it more time, but I must admit I'm quite disappointed.


Jeanne said...

Dear Dr. Alzuru, I was so disappointed by your comments about 'Caramelo E Chocolate', as "very few" of these 'dark-skinned' latina models, turned actresses rarely get the chance to do a lead part in these novelas. As you said from your post, sadly Legia's Petit's performance in 'Negra Consentida' didn't turn out the way I'd hope it would, and the episodes were cut down quite considerably, in order to 'speed up' the ending (it also didn't help the viewers, and I'm sure quite a few others, were quibbling over the fact that they thought Legia wasn't 'dark enough' to be considered a real black latina.).
I had no idea the Brenda Hanst, another of my favorite latina actresses, had gotten the part of the heroine and I wish to God things would have turned out better for her as well.
Between these two women, and actresses like Indhira Serrano, Zonaly Ruiz (Luz Maria, fame), and Muriel Fouilland (Mirade de Mujer and Mujer El Regreso)you have to ask yourself 'when' exactly when things 'turn around' for these talented and 'under-used' actresses?

Dr. Carolina Acosta-Alzuru said...

Dear Jeanne,

It's no secret that skin color plays a role in choosing actors for a telenovela. However, the problems with Caramelo e Chocolate were not about the cast, but were due to the near invisibility of government network TVES and the low production values of this telenovela.

I also think it's important to mention that Ligia Petit is not naturally dark skinned. She was cast as the lead in Negra Consentida because she's a Miss Venezuela alum and a beautiful woman. Her skin and hair were "darkened" for the role. I think she was miscast, and so was the male protagonist.

Dark skinned women have played important roles in Brazilian telenovelas, where realism governs production.

Moving back to Venezuela and "dark-skinned" actors, Gledys Ibarra has established her talent and always plays key roles in the telenovelas written by Leonardo Padrón, a writer known to choose talent over looks.

As to your question of when things will turn around in the telenovela industry, I'm not too hopeful. Especially because these days Mexican telenovela remakes govern the international market with their traditional protagonists and storylines.

Thanks so much for participating in my blog!