Interview with Erick De Freitas, a Teenage Winner of Vamos en Corto Human Rights Film Festival in VenezuelaPublished: Dec 18, 2020 Reading time: 8 minutes
In September 2020, the second edition of the film festival Vamos en Corto took place in Venezuela. Prior to the festival, participants received capacity building on the production of short films on the themes of human rights, peaceful resolution of conflicts, reconciliation and gender violence. Tens of young Venezuelans learned to create audio-visual contents during workshops and produced short documentary, animated and acted films, for which they wrote own scripts.
The festival is part of the project ReconciliACCION that seeks to open discussion on peace culture and human rights among Venezuelan youth. It initiated in 2018 as a joint venture by Oportunidad AC, Mujer y Ciudadanía, the University of Monteavila and People in Need, with financial support from the European Union.
The festival competition was divided into three categories: Vamos en Corto (short films of 5-10 minutes), Vamos en Microcorto (extra short 3-minute films), Vamos en Micrometraje (extra short films of 1 minute). At the end of the festival, jury selected winners: Aislados/Isolated by Erick De Freitas and José Miguel Lara, Guerrero by Anderson Rivero, Una carta para ti by Andrea González, Percepciones by Alicia Montaño.
We had an opportunity to interview an author of the film Aislados (Isolated) Erick De Freitas, an 18-year old student in Caracas. We asked him about his background, participation in festival workshops, competition experience, as well as his future aspirations.
Erick, it’s a great achievement to win in Vamos en Corto youth film competition. At People in Need, we are very happy for your success and would like to get to know you a little. Could you tell us about yourself? Where do you live, what do you study?
Sure, my name is Erick De Freitas, I am 18 years old. I just graduated from high school and started studying graphic design at José Maria Vargas University three months ago. Also, I have been participating in a graphic design course offered by the youth centre Don Bosco for three years. I live in the central area of Caracas close to the presidential house. It is an area for middle-class people. It used to be wealthier in 80s and 90s, but it is not like this anymore. There are issues nowadays. For example, an incredible amount of rubbish accumulate in the streets, as dustcarts sometimes do not come for months. It happens principally because the public cleaning system is not funded much, so there are neither enough dustcarts nor people working in the system to keep the city clean.
What issues and challenges do people of your age living in this area face?
What affects us the most are two things. First, crimes, and second, food and water scarcity. I do not go out with phone in my hand, or wear something that looks expensive and call the attention of thieves. Where I live is relatively safe as it is close to the presidential house, but still, there have been some cases and I have to be careful. In this sector of the city, the second problem, the scarcity of food and water, is what affects us the most. For example, the water supply often stops which is supposedly for saving water so that it can be distributed to every part of the country. However, in reality, Miranda, a state where Caracas is, is the only of 23 Venezuelan states, which receives constant water supply. In some states far from Caracas, it is common that water supply does not come for months.
Do you live with your family? What do they do?
Yes, I live with my family. My dad, my mom, and my sister. My sister is studying at primary school. My father is a manager in a butcher shop and my mother is a seamstress, she fixes and makes clothes for others to sell.
How is it like for you and your family to live in the middle of a crisis and pandemic in Venezuela?
The first weeks of COVID were really hasty and frustrating. Revenue from my father’s shop dropped, my mother looked exhausted as she was working all days. We have not been going out much, because without money we cannot do shopping or go for touristic places. We watch films so that we do not think about problems all the time.
How did you know about Oportunidad AC and the audio-visual workshops? What made you interested in them?
Through Don Bosco, I got to know that Oportunidad AC and Monteávila University are together organizing a course on short films. I thought it was a great opportunity to take a course offered by Monteávila University, one of the best and most prestigious universities here. Also, it was relevant to the field of my study, graphic design. So I did not hesitate to sign up for the course.
Can you tell us more about the Don Bosco youth centre that you mentioned?
It is part of the church Don Bosco, and it offers courses for a very cheap price and many benefits. They give you a certificate upon completion of each course, and if you have not eaten, they provide you with free food as well. I have met a lot of amazing people and been having great time here.
Aside from your university studies, are you taking courses at Don Bosco or collaborate with any civil society organisation?
At Don Bosco, I started a new computing course in addition to the graphic design course. Previously, I worked with UNICEF which was working to distribute food for children who cannot eat enough. Besides UNICEF and Oportunidad AC, I have not had an opportunity to work with other organisations.
With whom did you produce the winning short film?
We were initially a group of five, all more or less in the same age as me. Some were studying at high school, others were working. One used to study at university but had to quit due to economic reasons. Two had to leave the team because of connection issues during lockdown combined with the lack of electricity and water supply. We tried to stick together but it was too complicated for them to continue working on the short film production. There was a girl who worked with us till the last minute when she suddenly decided to leave the team. In the end, it was me and Jose Miguel, a photographer, who completed the film.
How did you get ideas for the short film? What inspired you?
I remembered that I had watched a film on coronavirus in Wuhan and how people there were suffering from the virus. From there the idea of making a film on coronavirus in Venezuela came. We had other ideas like crimes in Venezuela. But there was another group working on the theme already, and everyone in my group thought this idea has potential, so we decided to work on coronavirus in Venezuela. Also, some phrases about Venezuelan people’s attitude to life that I included in the film came from what my history teacher told me.
How did the film production process go? Was it affected by the pandemic?
After we decided on the theme, we divided tasks, started contacting people to have an interview, and so on. We had everything planned. We knew where to shoot video and had contacts of some doctors to interview. But then lockdown started. We always talked on WhatsApp with the team and tried to meet sometimes, but it was not possible as we were only allowed to go out to buy essential supplies. Due to unstable internet, it was not an option to do video calls either. During the lockdown, I prepared the script. Jose Miguel took care of shooting videos. He also had a call with a doctor who told him about the situation of pandemic and some tips to prevent coronavirus infection, especially for those who do not have access to sufficient soap and water. He passed me the information he got from the interview. We also did some research on the website of WHO [World Health Organization].
How did you feel when you won Vamos en Corto?
I remember I was with friends when the YouTube notification announcing the winners came. On that day I did not check who were the winners. On the following day, I received a call and I was told that I was the winner of Vamos en Corto. I was so happy. After the call, I went to tell my mom that I won the festival. My mom hugged me, started to cry and told me that our effort was worth it. Then I called Jose Miguel and told him that we won Vamos en Corto. He did not believe me, he said this has to be a lie. So I sent him the YouTube video, he checked it and called me back saying wow we won it, it’s incredible!
Finally, what is your dream and plan for the future?
It’s something simple. I want to finish my study at university, and later I want to work on something related to video games. I really like videogames which also has artistic and cinematographic aspects. I love it. I always wanted to develop my own videogame, but so far it has not been possible as I do not have proper instruments. But anyway, I first have to study and then work. In the future, I want to leave Venezuela. It is not like I do not like Venezuela, I love Venezuela. But I want to leave to see what’s out there. I would like to go to Europe, especially Spain, where the game industry is developing fast.