Aug 25, 2009


Last night RCTV began broadcasting in Venezuela its new telenovela Libres como el viento, written by Pilar Romero (Mi Prima Ciela, Elizabeth, Maite, Toda Mujer), inspired in Rómulo Gallegos' novel "La Brizna de Paja en el Viento".

In the telenovela's synopsis, it is emphasized that this is a love story "marked by the current happenings in university life". This context is a clear reference to the reality of the student movement in Venezuela, which became a political protagonist after the government did not renew RCTV's broadcast concession in May 2007:

It's too early to assess this telenovela. For the moment, I'm interested in its context, which we can see represented in the following promotional:

I can't help but to notice that these days Venezuelan telenovelas are living a moment that is the opposite of the one I studied in the year 2003. At that time, RCTV and Venevisión competed for the first place. Both networks were on the same political side: opposing Hugo Chávez's government. Their novelas, however, offered two very different options. Venevisión represented and editorialized the harsh political reality in successful telenovela Cosita Rica, written by Leonardo Padrón. For his part, José Simón Escalona, RCTV's dramatic chief, believed that at the time Venezuelans didn't want to see more reality on their tv screens (Acosta-Alzuru, 2007, p. 34). Hence, RCTV broadcast La Invasora, written by Iris Dubbs, followed by Estrambótica Anastasia, authored by Martin Hahn.

Today we're in a completely different situation. RCTV can only broadcast via cable, is dedicated to producing remakes and versions, and places its wagers on a telenovela with a context linked to reality. Venevisión, without a strong competitor in Venezuelan TV, nevertheless is keenly aware of the delicate situation regarding freedom of expression in Venezuela. Therefore, this network prioritizes international sales and asks its writers to author telenovelas that are more "universal", devoid of local flavor, and avoiding any references to the country's controversial reality.

And, even though the telenovela industry always begs the question: "what do audience members want to watch in their telenovelas?", it's impossible for me to think of that, when I'm sure that we're doing much worse in my country. In every sense.

Acosta-Alzuru, C. (2007). Venezuela es una Telenovela. Caracas: Alfa.

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