‘El Cerrito’ challenges filmmakers

El Cerrito is a documentary by the creative duo, and Western Film Studies faculty members, director Juan Andrés Bello and producer Constanza Burucua. The film has had a successful run on the documentary film circuit, capturing nearly a dozen awards from festivals around the world.

“It’s the story of a house; it’s the story of a friendship. Through the story of the house, the history of Venezuela in the 1950s is recounted,” Burucua said.

Armando Planchart owned a successful General Motors dealer in Venezuela, selling cars to the country’s increasingly affluent population. Planchart and his wife, Ana Luisa (Anala), were admirers of modern art and architecture. Previously, Anala had designed all of the couple’s houses. “At some point in their lives, they decided they wanted to have something different,” Burucua explained. After extensive research, their quest for something different led them to Gio Ponti, an Italian architect based out of Milan.

“Ponti had carte blanche,” Burucua said. “The Plancharts would pay for everything he wanted. So he thought, this is kind of fun.”

The end result, Quinta El Cerrito, is considered Ponti’s masterpiece.

The making of the El Cerrito, completed in 2006, was a formidable challenge for Burucua and Bello, taking more than four years to complete.

“At several stages you think the project is going to sink. You get money to start the project, but you never know when the money to keep it going is going to come. The big moment of relief comes when you get your first cut,” Burucua said. “That’s the top of the hill. After the first cut, it’s all a matter of the final touches.”

Funding for their projects often comes from grants and private entities, depending on the project. The team also uses money they earn from commissioned projects. “We did four biographies for the Biography Channel,” Burucua said. “So when the Biography Channel pays, you grab some of that money and put it into your own film.”

The duo has worked on eight projects together, some are finished, and some are still in development. Up next is, Villanueva, a documentary about a Venezuelan architect who designed the campus of the Venezuela’s largest university. Once completed, that film will be released into the festival circuit.

As for future films, they will be more subjectively inspired. Burucua, an Argentinean, and Bello, a Venezuelan, are new to Canada, and Burucua expects their experiences as immigrants will influence their work.

“Hopefully we will be able to do something that catches our attention as immigrants here in Canada,” Burucua said. “It is certainly going to have impact on the stories we tell in the future.”


El Cerrito film screening
7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 1
Museum London, 421 Ridout St.