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Topic, the fast-growing streaming service from First Look Media, has acquired North American streaming rights to Anabel Rodriguez Rios’ documentary feature debut, “Once Upon a Time in Venezuela.” The film, which explores the decline of the Venezuelan fishing village of Congo Mirador and, more broadly, the country’s complicated current political and social climate, made its world premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. It is Venezuela’s 2021 Academy Award submission for best international feature film, and was shortlisted for the 2020 IDA Documentary Awards. Topic plans an aggressive Oscar push for both documentary and foreign categories.

On Lake Maracaibo, beneath the mysterious silent Catatumbo lightning, the village of Congo Mirador is preparing for parliamentary elections. For streetwise local businesswoman and Chavist party representative Tamara every vote counts, fought by all means, while for opposition-supporting teacher Natalie, politics is a weapon unsuccessfully attempting to force her from her job. And with her sharp eyes, little Yoaini sees her community sinking from sedimentation, her childhood and innocence with it. How can a small fishing village survive against corruption, pollution and political decay?

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“Once Upon a Time in Venezuela” Courtesy of John Marquez

“Anabel Rodriguez Rios is an extremely talented emerging filmmaker, and we are honored to bring her film about her homeland of Venezuela to our audience, whom we think will be extremely moved and affected by what she has captured,” stated Ryan Chanatry, general manager, Topic.

“It’s a reflection of my entire country, the political confrontation in daily life, of corruption, populism and decadence that takes over everything and destroys the foundations of co-existence and the future of the lost people of Maracaibo Lake and of my whole country, Venezuela,” added Rodriguez Rios.

“Once Upon a Time in Venezuela” was directed by Rodriguez Rios, produced and edited by Sepp R. Brudermann, and written by Rodriguez Rios and Brudermann. Claudia LePage serves as executive producer. John Marquez serves as director of photography. Original music by Nascuy Linares.

Jennifer Liang, VP of acquisitions at Topic, negotiated the deal for Topic, with David Piperni of Cargo Releasing on behalf of the filmmakers.