The Weeping Season
A Documentary About Family, Loss, and Venezuela
This in-production feature documentary directed by Alexandra Hidalgo blends together personal history with the loss of one’s homeland through political and economic decimation. Shot over 14 years in Venezuela, the US, Spain, and Portugal, the film creates an international portrait of a family surviving tragedy and learning to find happiness and wisdom during troubled times.
In 1983, Miguel Hidalgo, a Venezuelan inventor, writer, and economist who grew up in the US, disappeared in the Venezuelan Amazon, leaving behind his six-year-old daughter, Alexandra. In 2004, filmmaker Alexandra traveled to the remote town of his vanishing, camcorder in hand. After a tense week of interviews, she solved the mystery of his disappearance. While piecing the story together, she realized that she knew little of the man whose absence she mourned. Her new quest becomes one of understanding the lives of her father and his family. As she unravels the past during her travels through the US, Venezuela, Spain, and Portugal, Alexandra also explores a different kind of loss—that of her homeland, Venezuela, a country that has gradually become subjected to a ruthless dictator’s nationalist, populist regime.
At its core, The Weeping Season is a story about how to overcome the pain that results from indefinite loss. In this case the pain from not knowing whether a missing parent is dead or will return home and from not knowing whether our homeland completely collapsed or will recover in our lifetime. The film illustrates how when we lose something, we’re left with traces, like photos, letters, and footage, but most of all stories—our own stories about who and what we’ve lost. How do those stories wound and sustain us and how do we weave and live new stories of hope and healing? As the film untangles the intricate thread that led to Miguel’s disappearance and explores its aftermath, it answers those questions and invites the audience to do the hard work of overcoming their own losses to emerge as more resilient and compassionate human beings.
Our team, made up of Venezuelan and Michigan-based crewmembers, has completed 70% of principal photography and is currently editing. We plan to have a complete draft of the 60-minute English version by October 2018.
We have been awarded three Michigan State University grants toward the project—College of Arts and Letters Faculty Summer Fellowship, Humanities and Arts Research Program Development Grant, and Diversity Research Network Launch Award. The funding has made it possible for us to film in Caracas, New York City, Lansing, East Lansing, Washington DC, Boston, Madrid, and Lisbon over the last two years.
Director, Producer, Writer, Co-Editor
Alexandra Hidalgo is an award-winning Venezuelan filmmaker, whose documentaries have been official selections at film festivals in 13 countries. Her short documentary Teta has been selected for 19 film festivals and won 7 awards in its first year on the circuit, including Athens International Film and Video and Boston Latino. Alexandra is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of agnès films, a digital publication that supports the work of women and feminist filmmakers. She has spearheaded various activist campaigns toward increasing the number of women behind the camera. They have been featured on The Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire, NPR, and Women and Hollywood. Having received her PhD from Purdue University in Rhetoric and Composition with a concentration in film and video production, Alexandra is now an assistant professor and co-director of The Doc Lab at Michigan State University, where she teaches courses on video production and documentary film history and theory, among others. Her video book, Cámara Retórica: A Feminist Filmmaking Methodology for Rhetoric and Composition, was published in 2017. Her academic video essays have been published in premiere peer-reviewed digital journals like Enculturation, Kairos, Present Tense, and Peitho.
Venezuelan producer Natalia Machado is one of the founders of La Pandilla Producciones, one the most renowned media production companies in Venezuela. Since 2004, she has produced five feature and short films alongside her husband, the acclaimed director Gustavo Rondón Córdova. Their collaborations have screened at Cannes Semaine de la Critique, Tribeca, Berlinale, Berlin, Biarritz, Mar del Plata, Toulouse, and La Habana, among many others. Their latest film, La Familia (2017), has screened at film festivals in 27 countries. It was the opening film at Olhar de Cinema in Curitiba, Brazil, and it and won best film at Biarritz Latin America and Best Fiction Film and Best Acting at Santiago International in Chile. She has worked as the local Venezuelan producer for a number of Argentinean medias companies, including Cuatro Cabezas and Endemol. The content they created together has been screened at MTV, the History Channel, Discovery Channel, HBO Latinoamérica, and TNT Latinoamérica. Natalia studied Communication at the Universidad Central de Venezuela and Film Production at the Septima Ars Digital Television Film School in Madrid, Spain.
Director of Photography
Nathaniel Bowler has been making films in collaboration with his wife and creative partner Alexandra Hidalgo since 2004. His director of photography work includes Teta and William and Santiago Simultaneous, two documentaries that have been screened at film festivals and academic conferences around the world. He worked as a videographer for the music video for Joseph Arthur’s “The Campaign Song,” a collaboration between Arthur and artist Spencer Tunick. The video was featured on Paste Magazine, New Noise Magazine, and Cleve Scene. His cinematography work on his wife’s video essays has been featured on multiple digital academic journals, such as Kairos, Enculturation, and Peitho. He works as a writer, photographer, and social media specialist for a variety of companies located in Venezuela, the US, England, and Spain.
Cristina began her career as an editor in La Pandilla Producciones, one of the most acclaimed production companies for film, TV, and commercial content in Venezuela. Her latest film working as a co-editor is La Familia by Venezuelan director Gustavo Rondón Córdoba. Since premiering at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival’s Semaine de la Critique, La Familia has gone on to screen in 30 film festivals, including Biarritz International, Cairo International, and Mar de Plata International, where it received the Best Film Award by the Argentinean Cinema Syndicate. Since moving from Caracas to Buenos Aires in 2007, Cristina has edited five feature fiction films, three feature documentaries, and various TV documentaries and shows. Other film credits include two feature films by Simón Franco—Boca de Pozo, the opening film for Pantalla Pinamar, and Tiempos Menos Modernos, which screened at Montreal, London Latin American, and Mannheim, among others. She has a BA in Communication from the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Caracas and a BA in Film Editing from the Escuela Nacional de Realización y Experimentación Cinematográfica in Buenos Aires.
Ana Lucía Salamanca
Caracas Unit Director of Photography
Ana Lucía Salamanca is a Venezuelan/Spanish filmmaker, cinematographer, screenwriter, photographer, and actor. Her 2017 feature documentary (That) I Bring You My Heart, which she directed, filmed, and wrote in various towns in Venezuela, follows the lives of women from different social classes as they perform their daily tasks. She has also worked as assistant director for various documentaries, including Jazmines en Lídice and Dogma. She has a BA in Filmmaking from the Universidad Central de Venezuela. She recently moved to Spain and was awarded a fellowship to complete her MA in Executive Audiovisual Production at the Universidade da Corruña. Her current film work revolves around issues that Venezuelans face as they emigrate from their motherland to escape political violence.
Animator, Assistant Editor
Peter Johnston is an award-winning filmmaker, multi-media designer, and educator, whose recent short documentary premiered at the Free Press Film Festival at the Detroit Film Theatre. As an editor, his work on fiction and documentary short and feature films has screened at film festivals across the country and internationally, as well as on PBS stations nationwide. His experimental public-access series The Limited Appeal ran on local cable. He has designed award-winning multimedia projections for live theatrical performances. He teaches filmmaking at Michigan State University.