Even the biblical terms “exodus” and “diaspora” are not able to contain the flight of Venezuelans: five and a half million have left the country in recent years. A bleeding that began in 2016, second only to that caused by the civil war in Syria. Violence, six-figure inflation, lack of food and medicine triggered the largest human mobilization in Latin American history. Almost a million people found refuge in Brazil: there, at the border, with Venezuela, Francesco Semprini shot the documentary Seven thousand. Seven thousand, like the kilometers traveled by Venezuelans fleeing (often on foot) from Caracas to Salvador de Bahia, where they look for a future.
The trailer of Siete Mil, the documentary by Francesco Semprini shot in Venezuela
The violence of Chavismo
Francesco Semprini – envoy of La Stampa in the theaters of war: from Afghanistan to Libya – has traveled the “trochas”, the clandestine paths used by those who leave Venezuela to evade border controls. Paths often littered with agents of the Bolivarian Guard, who impose protection money on migrants to let them pass: because in a failed country, migratory flows become a business to be squeezed. «This documentary was born by mistake – says the author – I left to tell the welcome of Venezuelans in Brazil, then I met the leader of the Pemon, an original population who lives between the two countries. He told me about the slaughter committed by Nicolas Maduro’s paramilitaries in indigenous villages. It described how people’s corpses were secretly loaded onto trucks to make them disappear. I couldn’t ignore that story. ” The short begins with the protests of 2019, stitching together amateur footage showing the Chavista military suffocating the demonstrations in blood. «When we arrived in Santa Elena del Uarién – Semprini remembers – there were still carcasses of burning vehicles. After the initial distrust, perhaps they feared we were spies, the locals started asking us to tell the world their tragedy: we became the sounding board for that cry of pain ».
In Santa Elena del Uarién there is a meeting with José, a former policeman who has left his uniform. On the body it bears the traces of eight years of fight against delinquency. “I deserted because President Maduro betrayed the Venezuelan people,” he says.
The new life in Brazil
Semprini’s journey continues to Pacaraima and Boa Vista, where the most large reception facilities are located. The last stop of the documentary is Salvador de Bahia, in southern Brazil, the terminus of the seven thousand kilometers of the journey of hope. There, a project financed by the EU and also by Italy tries to give migrants a second chance: the internalization program seeks a job that is worthy and respectful of the past of these people, most of them belonging to the middle class, pulverized in the years of Chavismo : “If a person was a laboratory technician they won’t send him to work in the fields,” Semprini explains. The hope of almost all Venezuelans is to make, sooner or later, the reverse journey to return to what is still today the country with the largest oil reserves in the world.
“The crises that burn under the ashes”
The documentary was produced by Francesco Semprini himself and the realization was attended by Antonello Veneri (on the field with the author), Anna Vyaches (photos, videos and images), Leonardo Pallenberg (camera and editing), Jacopo Messina (sound design) and the maestro Andrea Rotondi (music). A painful work that saw the light during the first lockdown: «The editing was done in Rome and the sound design in Sicily while I was in New York», says Semprini.
Seven thousand it has already been selected by some festivals and will be screened in cultural spaces in Italy and abroad. An Instagram page tells the behind the scenes and aims to animate the debate before the screening. «The goal is to create a sort of square where you can return to reasoning about real issues. This year and a half of pandemic has made us short-sighted and deaf compared to what is not a health crisis – comments Semprini – But there are many crises that burn under the ashes and will explode again at any moment in our hands “. The cry of the fleeing Venezuelans is proof of this.