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'El Senor Presidente' challenges Chavez

RCTV, the 53 year old Venezuelan terrestrial network that was yanked off the airwaves in May for its anti-government stance, is again defying the populist regime of President Hugo Chavez by producing a pic that openly describes a dictatorship in a Latin American country. This is RCTV’s first film production in some 20 years.

Written, produced and helmed by RCTV’s VP of Development and New Media, Romulo Guardia, “El Senor Presidente” (The President) is a film adaptation of the novel by Guatemalan 1967 Nobel Laureate in Literature, Miguel Angel Asturias. Guardia’s production company, Angostura Films, co-produced the pic.

“Aside from exploring a variety of genres, we are looking to recreate Spanish classic literature that will appeal to a broad Latin American audience,” Guardia says. RCTV’s next pic is a horror thriller based on a Venezuelan legend. The web aims to make three pics next year and to eventually build up its feature film production output to 12 a year.

Leading distrib/exhib Cinematografica Blancica, which distributes pics from Sony Pictures and Warners in Venezuela, will release the drama by the end of November on 20 prints, a high count for a local pic.

Guardia shot “El Senor Presidente” in hi-def for less than $1 million in Caracas and other locations. “We had to film in secret in order to avoid being shut down,” says Guardia, a former exec at Discovery Latin America.

“El Senor Presidente” is set in a fictitious Latin American country living under a fierce dictatorship. In the story, the president uses his influence to destroy his rival and enemy, General Canales, the father of the young girl he fancies. “We plan to market the film as a Guatemalan story to avoid any problems with authorities,” says Blancica prexy Antonio Blanco.

RCTV lost its terrestrial broadcasting rights last spring when Chavez’s democratically elected government opted not to renew the web’s license, accusing it of siding with the opposition and allegedly violating broadcast laws. As of July, RCTV has been broadcasting on cable and satellite systems under the moniker RCTV Intl.

The Chavez government has been backing a slew of pics that local industryites and government watchdogs label as outright propaganda films, some shot in the new state-of-the-art studio facility outside Caracas, La Villa del Cine. Chavez has recently been hosting visits from Hollywood activists including Danny Glover, Sean Penn and Kevin Spacey.

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