“The struggle of a few is worth the future of all,” said Neomar Lander, shortly before he was shot to death by government soldiers on a Caracas corner. The unarmed 17-year-old was protesting against the repressive Maduro government, joining thousands who were calling for general elections and freedom for jailed opposition activists. Fearing reprisals from the government, his mother, Zugeimar Armas, fled Venezuela in 2019, two years after her son’s death.
Armas’ story of heartbreak, brutality, and starting over in a new country is one of four deeply-moving accounts in The Female Exile, a documentary featuring interviews with women who have escaped persecution and torture in Venezuela. The documentary, which took home the top prize in the 2019 Dragon’s Den competition in Moldova, was produced by Fundación para el Avance de la Libertad (FUNDALIB), an Atlas Network partner in Spain, with support from Atlas Network and the Global Philanthropic Trust.
Juan Pina, Secretary-General of FUNDALIB, was heavily involved in the development of the documentary. He notes, “From the dictatorship's cruelty to the difficulties in starting again in exile, the documentary builds, with a female perspective, a true account of the Venezuelan exile and their ongoing struggle for a free Venezuela.”
Laided Salazar, a dentist who served as a captain in the Venezuelan air force, was detained and tortured after conversations with fellow officers about concerns over government repression. Salazar was accused of instigating rebellion in the armed forces, indicted without trial or evidence, and sent to a federal prison in Barquisimeto, where she was denied food and water and forced into a socialist indoctrination program. She and her teenaged son later escaped to Colombia, eventually making their way to Spain. Human rights lawyers Patricia Carrera and Tamara Suju, both Venezuelan nationals, join in for a discussion about the problems that exiles face and the difficulties of assimilation for political asylum seekers.
I want to be one of the voices showing everyone how socialism works,” says Salazar. “How it despises individual freedom.” Armas agrees. “I will keep fighting with all my might for Venezuela’s freedom so that there may be justice.”
The half-hour film, which is subtitled in English, will be shown at film festivals and is available online.