“Morichales,” an experimental mocumentary about a geographer and explorer working in Venezuela’s Guyana, won the recent 35th Mar del Plata Festival work in progress showcase. “Morichales” is produced by Felipe Guerrero and Chris Gude at Colombia’s Mutokino (“Los Conductos”), and Maite Bermúdez (Virginia García del Pino’s “The Jury”).

A jury including producers Montse Triola, Zsuzsanna Kiràly and Sandra Gómez hailed Gude “for making a film that documents the fictitious figure of a miner and his tragic fate as a victim of the system and executioner of the planet.”

Director Chris Gude explained his protagonist, saying that “being both victim and executioner is a paradox, an existential trap that almost all human beings must confront.”

With “Morichales,” Gude closes a trilogy which began with 2013’s “Mambo Cool,” depicting the underworld of cocaine micro-trafficking and other drugs on the streets of Medellín, and continued with “Mariana,” (2017) about gasoline and whisky, hot-ticket contraband commodities in the frontier deserts between Colombia and Venezuela.

“Morichales’” leitmotiv is the large gold reserves under the palms of the Moriche plant from the Venezuelan lands on the River Orinoco. The narration mixes elements of travelogue, internal monologues and observational reflection. “The layers work like the act of mining as they reveal different layers of the economic, social, and natural phenomena at hand,” Gude explained, adding: “It would be impossible to recreate in fiction the labor and art of the miner and his penetration of nature.”

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Morichales Courtesy of Chris Gude

The use of 16mm film, the illustrations, and a narrator – as well as the dialogue between these three elements – defines “Morichales’” visual proposal. “The grains of the filmic texture correspond to the sediments from which gold is born. There is a mysterious relationship between the image and its material components –the form and the substance– that connects directly with the mysterious quality of gold and its value,” said Gude.

New York-born, Gude studied anthropology and geography. He moved to Medellín, Colombia in 2006 to work at a refugee shelter for internally displaced persons. His previous features have screened at FID Marseille, New York’s Lincoln Center and the Museum of the Moving Image, and Montreal Festival of New Cinema, among others.

Closing a cycle with ‘Morichales,’ Gude will now embark on new narrative paths. “One project is a western in the Venezuelan plains along the tributaries of the Upper Orinoco, inspired by the life of Hugo Chávez’ great grandfather, an outlaw cowboy and freedom fighter,” he explained. “I’ve also been developing a script about the history of pirates in the Caribbean that takes place around the Guajira peninsula called ‘Marisol’.”

The Mar del Plata Festival has always shown a keen eye for groundbreaking art films and for young talent. In its 35th edition it screened the works of 19 first-time feature filmmakers.