ESTABLISHING A VIABLE and stable national film industry in Venezuela has proved to be a long and difficult process, and one that is still continuing today. The Venezuelan cinema has developed spasmodically, constantly oscillating between the notable achievements of certain producers and directors, on the one hand, and the frequent setbacks resulting from adverse economic or political circumstances, on the other. As will be seen in this chapter, films of high quality and considerable critical acclaim have nonetheless emerged, many of them debating vital, and often controversial, national issues.
As in other areas of Venezuelan cultural and artistic life, oil has played a crucial role in defining the nature of national film production. Indeed, many would argue that it has had an even greater impact, both negative and positive, on the nation's cinema than on other forms of artistic expressions. The huge oil revenues have provided successive governments with the means to fund and promote national filmmaking, which has so often had to depend on state support. It is also true, however, that the influx of petrodollars has increased the influence of U.S. culture and lifestyles throughout the country, reflected in the great popularity of the numerous American films that are imported. Venezuelan filmmakers, generally with very limited resources, have found it difficult to compete against the powerful, prosperous and high-tech Hollywood film industry. They have frequently complained that the large corporations which dominate the distribution and showing of films in Venezuela have persistently favored American imports while treating their own films as an inferior product, failing to promote them adequately, consigning them to inferior theaters, and even charging audiences more to see them. As