original story by Marianela Maldonado

screenwriters: Marianela Maldonado - Ciro Ramos

In development. Feature film in co-production with Somos La Otra Banda (Mexico), Casa Tarántula (Colombia) and Sancocho Público (Venezuela).

The Belly of The Whale tells the story of two teenage siblings, Santiago (16) and Sofia (15) who are abandoned in a beach house, after his father is publicly accused of corruption and drug trafficking. Stripped of all their privileges, Santiago and Sofia must survive confinement and isolation, counting only with the help of Manuel, a young fisherman who Santiago asks for help to find a mysterious cave, known as The Belly of The Whale, which their supposed supernatural qualities could give clues about their future.

The search of the Cave is unsuccessful, but saves them from an armed attack occurs on the property, and which results in the disappearance of their father. From that moment, the siblings must survive alone in a destroyed house, where confirm their suspicions about the obscure origins of their wealth.

Amid such precarious conditions, Santiago and Sofia developed an incestuous relationship which later ends up involving Manuel, who finally rescue them from the Island. Once in town, the siblings are witnesses of the misery that has brought the drug trade led by his father, and discover that Manuel is part of the criminal network. Clouded by jealousy as he witnesses the relationship between Manuel and Sofia, Santiago believes his supposed ally has betrayed them.

Four years ago I returned to Venezuela after living abroad for 15 years. Much had changed back then and I did not recognize the country I left. The real stories coming from this country are dramatic and urgently need to be told.

My background has always been fiction but I began working on documentaries as the reality was far more incredible than anything I could imagine.  Some of the characters in my story are based on real people and situations that I have seen or investigated while shooting these documentaries.

As a teenager I used to go camping and exploring the east coast of Venezuela. The sleepy fishing villages were idyllic, full of people with easy smiles and kind eyes. I was shocked at the changes when I returned. What I encountered was a devastating reality, entire communities controlled by drug trafficking, deadly no-go zones, abandoned businesses, suspicious looks and a dilapidated infrastructure. Many teenagers work for the drug smugglers, even whole towns, which are now completely ruined by the mismanagement of the country.

Under a socialist banner, the ruling elite has used the revolutionary discourse as a justification for any behavior they deem fit. Government ministers and their affiliates are known as the ‘bourgeois socialists - the Boli-bourgeoises’, a network of political allies who have created an economic system of corruption and drug trafficking on an industrial scale.

 Venezuela has always had problems, but nothing is comparable to the situation now. Over a decade ago, my country experienced the greatest revenue in its history as an oil producer. Today all that money is gone, stolen, embezzled; instead, it’s riddled in foreign debt and rampant crime with the second rate of murders per capita in the world. Shortages of most goods and medicines result in price regulation and rationing. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Corruption has eroded away all layers of society to the point where it is seen as a viable method of survival.

Photos:Carolina Burburano / Angel Rizo(cover)



Marianela Maldonado



Marianela Maldonado website

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