- We're still mourning.
- We still have one eye closed.
- We lost the mechanism of internal competition, essential to the evolution of Venezuelan TV.
- Nobody watches the government network TVES.
- The job sources for actors, producers, directors and technical crew members have been severely diminished.
- Writers in RCTV are adapting classic works or remaking old telenovelas.
- Writers in Venevisión are being directed to write for an "universal" market, not for Venezuelans. This international market seems to like telenovelas made in Miami, and those produced by Televisa and Telemundo.
- Telefutura has a say in the casts of RCTV telenovelas, but then moves those same productions to humiliating slots in its schedule.
- Actors have seen their few work sources invaded by political polarization.
- In a modern twist of the witch hunts, some Venezuelans decided to judge actors and writers not by their talent, but by their workplace.
- The wound hasn't healed. It's a wound in our freedom of expression, a hole in our remote control, and in our Venezuelan essence.
(Important: if the youtube version seems to have video and audio out of sync, please click on the second version that requires Flash)
Here, you can read (it's in Spanish) a fragment of another emblematic scene in which Doble M confronts her daughter's reaction when the latter learns that, unbeknownst to her father, her mother is working outside her home.
- When she asks La Diabla to tatoo on her forearm the name of her loved ones, so that she doesn't forget them.
- When her son Juan finally finds her after two days.
- The final resolution to her storyline, one that could not have a traditional happy end.
I believe that in both cases-- Doble M and Peregrina, it's easy to appreciate what can be accomplished when a good script meets performance talent and commitment.
Sin Tetas No Hay Paraíso, based on the book authored by Colombian investigative reporter Gustavo Bolívar, tells the story of siblings Catalina and Byron, who chose the paths of prostitution and sicariato (paid hit man) to escape from poverty. Both paths are inextricably linked to narco traffic. This mini-series (I think it's too short to be called a telenovela) was originally produced by Caracol in Colombia. Sin Tetas is a show with a clear lesson dispensed after its "The End:"
Translation: One may think that just by being pretty or by having a gun you can reach paradise. That money makes you somebody, that a kiss is a coin, and a checkbook is a hug. That to study is a waste of time. As if becoming a prostitute and becoming someone else's merchandise, or living from killing others, were better than finding an honest job. The truth is that to be somebody in life, you don't have to be rich. To be somebody is to be, increasingly, owner of our own destiny. To read, write, substract, add, to study, to understand. To be able to fly and be proud of ourselves, of the struggles and triumphs that we have lived through without damaging others. The truth is that to be somebody in life you need to love, love yourself and be loved. To be somebody you don't need to elicit envy because you have money. No, to be somebody means to walk straight with your head up and without the need to hide. It means too live without nightmares and to be able to sleep soundly. The truth is that one can believe that just by being pretty, of by having a gun, you can reach paradise. But, money isn't paradise. And for paradise there aren't any shortcuts.
In similar fashion as the case of Yo soy Betty, la fea, the international market has fallen in love with this story, which has been broadcast in many countries. Its rights have also been acquired to produce several remakes. Each country that has broadcast Sin Tetas, or one of its remakes, has had to decide whether to leave the title unchanged or not since the word "tetas" ("tits") is considered vulgar in several Spanish-speaking cultures. For example, here's a promotional for the series in Puerto Rico. The word "tetas" is never said. In its place, there's a graphic:
Here, in the United States, Telemundo (owned by NBC) bought the rights for Sin Tetas No Hay Paraíso with the idea of producing it in Spanish with English sub-titles for the Spanish-speaking and English-speaking audiences.
In this teaser, we can read the title in Spanish, "Sin Tetas No Hay Paraíso" without the narrator ever saying it (0:51). At the end of the teaser, (2:40) author Gustavo Bolívar, himself says: "Llámalas como las quieras llamar, pero ya basta de tabúes. Tetas son Tetas y ya". The sub-titles read: "No more taboos! 'tetas' are 'tetas'". In this way, "tits" (a word that I don't think is acceptable for the average U.S. network television viewer) is never mentioned. The word "tetas" is shown and said only in Spanish, while the author instructs Spanish-speaking audiences to dispose of the "taboo" associated with the word "tetas."
Today, Mother's Day, I bring to this blog two of the telenovela mothers I know better: Mamasanta and Patria Mía from Cosita Rica. I also bring some excerpts from my book about this telenovela, Venezuela Es Una Telenovela with a video where we can see these two Venezuelan mothers with undeniable universal character.
Personified through the credibility of actor Gledys Ibarra and supported by a script plentiful in references to Venezuelan reality, Patria Mía is simultaneously woman and country.
Classes have ended and I'm in the midst of the delicate and difficult job of grading. This has kept me away from my blog for a whole week.
One of the recent happenings in the telenovela world that has stirred some commotion is that Telefutura has moved RCTV's telenovela Mi Prima Ciela from 5 p.m. to a half-hour slot at 9 a.m. This is a worse time and it also messes up the one-hour dramatic structure of each episode. In the place of Mi Prima Ciela, Telefutura is now broadcasting the decade-old version of La Usurpadora produced by Televisa. (An abridged version of this telenovela can be bought in DVD format).
In Univisón's message boards there were adverse reactions to this change as participants clamored that Mi Prima Ciela wouldn't be moved in the schedule: 1 y 2. Some bloggers, like Tania Azevedo also mentioned their unhappiness. Meanwhile, both in the message board TVVI and in Recordar es Vivir (1, 2, 3) participants theorized about the reasons behind Telefutura's decision. Some advanced conspiracy theories involving Cisneros, owner of Venevisión, RCTV's direct competitor in Venezuela.
Personally, I dislike both the change in the schedule and the treatment that Mi Prima Ciela has received in Telefutura. But, I'm not surprised at all. I disregard conspiracy theories about Venevisión having part on this, because Venevisión's telenovelas have also been victims of similar abuses in the Spanish-speaking TV here in the United States. The tendency by Univisión and its associated networks, (Telefutura and Galavisión), to treat Venezuelan telenovelas as second-class products is, by now, old. We know that prime time is reserved exclusively for Televisa telenovelas. But, through the years we have witnessed the invisibility of Brazilian telenovelas in their schedules and the rough and disrespectful way in which they have edited Venezuelan telenovelas such as El País de las Mujeres, Sueño con tu amor (Los Querendones), Amor a Palos and Amantes. We've also seen how Amantes de Luna Llena was broadcast in the humiliating 1 a.m. time slot. And, of course, we know they don't provide any space for any Venezuelan telenovela they classify as "localista". This fluid term is now equal to telenovelas made in Venezuela. (The main love story in Mi Prima Ciela is as universal as it gets--death as the antagonist--a plot we've seen and will keep seeing both in film and literature).
Of course, the background of this is the agreement between RCTV and Telefutura that allows the broadcasting in the latter of telenovelas produced by the former, albeit in the terrible conditions I'm discussing here.
Many will argue that if Mi Prima Ciela didn't garner good ratings at 5 p.m, it had to be taken out. However, I've seen my share of telenovelas at 5 p.m. with poor ratings that were never moved from that tiem slot. Of course, none of them were Venezuelan or Colombian. .
Mi Prima Ciela's schedule change is symptomatic of some of the worrisome trends I see in the market. In the U.S. there's a sort of re-education of the spectator in which audiences are only exposed to a particular type of telenovela. I know well that the Latinos of Mexican descent make up the majority of the Hispanic market. But, similarly to what happens in Mexico, these audiences only watch the same type of telenovela (and their remakes). Telenovelas deemed "different" are either stigmatized as "localistas", edited to the point of destroying their essence, or moved to terrible time slots, as in the case of Mi Prima Ciela.