Elvira Blanco

 

 

Abstract: This paper describes the distribution of audiovisual content in Venezuela as a process of circulation through a network primarily enabled by piracy. The images that are exchanged within this context are what Hito Steyerl has named “poor images” —degraded, fast-traveling, shareable copies—which possess political potential and populate Venezuela’s highly unregulated film economy. In addition, the Venezuelan state’s puzzling policies regarding access to national film production make for a rich setting in which to analyze the tense dynamics that take place between information capitalism and the poor image’s own subversive potential.

 

Introduction

My personal experience as a consumer of Venezuelan film can be summarized with the following anecdote. In the year 2014, while living in Caracas, I needed a copy of Margot Benacerraf’s film Araya, the 1959 FIPRESCI prizewinner and one of only two Venezuelan films ever honored at Cannes. I looked for a legal copy of it in the state’s chain of bookshops, where it should be possible—or so it is advertised—to buy Venezuelan movies, but I didn’t find any DVDs there at all. A state-owned video club where I could have rented the film had closed years earlier. I turned to the buhoneros (informal street vendors) who sell foreign and art-house movies on weekends near the Museo de Bellas Artes, and there I was able to find a pirate copy of Araya, which, unsurprisingly, was extremely pixelated. In the end, I settled for downloading a slightly higher-resolution version from the popular peer-to-peer torrent sharing service The Pirate Bay.

This experience inspired me to analyze the way Venezuelans can (or cannot) access national film production in the context of a dominant discourse of power—promoted by the current government, the ¨Bolivarian Revolution¨[1]—that calls for the strengthening of national identity, the democratization of means of production, and universal access to culture, while actually permitting the growth of a highly unregulated economy characterized by piracy, the creation of black markets, and the circulation of contraband.[2] In this paper I investigate the role piracy plays in structuring access to Venezuelan film heritage, and how makers and consumers are affected by the attitudes of the public and private sectors towards legal film distribution. I also explore the distinction between the circulation of piracy through physical copies (disc-based) and through digital platforms, and the implications of each medium in facilitating access to Venezuelan cinema. To do this, I employ multimedia artist and theorist Hito Steyerl’s theory of the poor image as a framework, while at the same time questioning her emphasis on the global nature of poor image circulation by contrasting it with the dynamics taking place within Venezuelan film economy specifically. My aim is to shed light on how the poor image is used as a vehicle for resistance against the exclusion Venezuelan film production is currently facing, and to demonstrate how Steyerl’s theory can be applied to other specific national and/or regional contexts.

The Conditions of The Poor Image

A digital moving image travels quickly across platforms and devices. It can be streamed, ripped, downloaded and re-uploaded, appropriated, modified, and corrupted. Adaptability is perhaps the most important distinction from its analog counterpart. But these processes of transmission/adaptation/retransmission take their toll on digital files: their journeys through formats eventually bring about loss of data, resulting in the degraded, precarious images that filmmaker and media researcher Hito Steyerl calls “poor images.” A poor image belongs at the bottom of the contemporary hierarchy of images, in which resolution determines position; a low-resolution image is the “debris of audiovisual production, the trash that washes up on the digital economies’ shores. . . . [It testifies] to the violent dislocations, transferals, and displacements of images—their acceleration and circulation within the vicious cycles of audiovisual capitalism.”[3] A copy that deteriorates as it circulates, a poor image is a marginal product of the film distribution industry that upholds high resolution as its maximum value.[4]

Poor images circulate in an entirely different manner than traditional independent films. Steyerl explains that the commercialization of cinema and the establishment of monopolies at local and global levels, twenty to thirty years ago, pushed independent filmmaking underground, and it was individuals circulating copies within small groups who kept experimental, militant, and essayistic cinema alive. But more recently, with the appearance of online streaming services, these images have begun to resurface on open platforms like UbuWeb and YouTube.[5] The possibility of P2P sharing and free downloads has also made files widely available, as now they can be saved, edited, and redistributed individually. Steyerl argues that the networks created through poor image circulation are global and anonymous, and reconstitute dispersed worldwide audiences.[6] In short, file-sharing platforms enable the “resurrection” of content marginalized by the mainstream in the form of poor images, and facilitate its circulation well beyond the limits of a given small group of interested individuals. However, the fact that “resurrected” films are only available outside the mainstream highlights their situation of exclusion and raises the question of how they became poor images. Steyerl argues that the poor image is resistant insofar as it continues to circulate in spite of its degradation, refusing to submit to the conditions of marginalization being imposed on it.[7]

It is clear that, today, someone in a small town in South America with a working Internet connection can legally or illegally stream and download an experimental film created by an artist in Europe several decades ago; but poor image circulation is not only about the possibility of surpassing geographical and political borders (just as it is not only about the dissemination of marginalized content, as will be discussed later). Although Steyerl emphasizes that the poor image creates a “shared history” as it travels across the globe, it also impacts and contributes to shared histories in much more localized contexts.[8] In the case of the Venezuelan film economy, the poor image is a key agent that critically influences how national cinema is produced and distributed. For example, it empowers illegal commercial networks and generates problems that directly impact the subsistence of local filmmakers; on the other hand, it offers solutions to problems of access, and constitutes communities within Venezuelan audiences that harness its properties to rescue an abandoned film legacy.

Venezuelan Film Economies and the Poor Image

Steyerl argues that private production has gradually become more important than state-sponsored media production, and this has given way to poor image circulation since the privatization of intellectual content enables piracy.[9] What is most puzzling about Venezuelan film economies is that, at first glance, they seem to work the other way around. Rodrigo Llamozas, founder of Cameo Marketing Audiovisual and former Distribution Director at the multiplex chain Cines Unidos, argues that almost all of the national films that are shown in the country are produced and/or distributed theatrically with some kind of sponsorship from the state.[10] The state operates through the distribution company Amazonia Films, and supports productions with various funding programs through the CNAC.[11] Additionally, state sponsorship is available to help makers finance transfers to 35mm and physically distribute their films across the country.[12] Therefore, it would be erroneous to assert that the state has preferred to privatize film production in Venezuela; its support simply does not extend to making films available to the public outside of the theater.

One example of this phenomenon is Hermano by Marcel Rasquin, the domestic box-office hit of 2010. It played internationally, is available in DVD format in Spain and the United States, and streams on Netflix and Hulu, yet it was never officially distributed in Venezuela after its successful theater run. According to Rasquin, CNAC was interested in releasing a DVD, but this never occurred. He was also in conversation with private companies to release DVDs through alternative channels; one option was to sell them in the Farmatodo chain of drugstores, and another was to include it in issues of newspaper El Nacional.[13] Neither plan came to fruition, and only pirate copies became available, which Rasquin laments: “What upset me most about the pirate Hermano was not only its low quality, but that it was an offline version—without color correction or credits, and with referential music—which included no less than The Rolling Stones.”[14] Ultimately, Rasquin thinks that those failed plans for distribution represented a moral obligation, rather than an actual “good business” opportunity, and adds: “Movies that do well at the box office are cannibalized incredibly fast in the pirate market, and the truth is that the pirate market has enveloped everything. Legal DVD sales do not exist, and the state is not in conditions [sic] to battle piracy. It doesn’t have the time, or the interest, either.”[15]

In “In Defense of the Poor Image,” Steyerl mentions the restructuring processes of disintegrating nation-states that leave some national film archives orphaned. Referencing a personal e-mail exchange with writer and artist Kodwo Eshun, she argues that poor images circulate partly due to the void left by state cinema organizations that do not have the resources to maintain a 16/35 mm archive or a distribution infrastructure.[16] In light of the importance of archives in preserving, disseminating, and articulating national film legacies, I consulted the 48th Anniversary Program at the National Cinematheque of Venezuela (corresponding to April 2015) to confirm whether local production was being honored in any way during the celebration. To my disappointment, fewer than half the films were national productions; of those, none was made before 2008; and all were to be screened from DVD copies. The Cinematheque’s website contained no information about preservation programs underway or past.[17]

When asked about the state’s efforts to make Venezuelan films available on DVD, Marcel Rasquin and Rodrigo Llamozas agreed that CNAC has released some DVD compilations of classic national movies, but in small numbers and with limited distribution (Llamozas claims to own several; I was unable to find catalogues of these releases online).[18] This resonates with Eshun’s observation, since without formal access, consumers are left to deal with other structures, most importantly the pirate market. But are the poor images circulating there progressive agents of resistance? Can they be commodified and subversive at the same time?

Quemaditos (pirate DVDs or Blu-Rays) are the principal medium of circulation for poor images in Venezuela. They are the protagonists of what Ramón Lobato has called “shadow economies.” In his book Shadow Economies of Cinema, he describes such economies as the “informal sphere in which goods and people are traded off the books,”[19] beneath the global system of regulated trade: “(We can) speak of a formal film economy of studios, sales agents and festivals, shadowed by a vast, unmeasured and unevenly governed zone of informal commerce.”[20] These two types of economies have their own regulation mechanisms and organizational dynamics. Lobato characterizes formal distribution as governed by states and corporations, and having a “revenue-sharing business model, complex systems of statistical enumeration and windowing releasing pattern driven by theatrical premieres;”[21] in contrast, informal distribution is usually non-theatrical, and some of its most relevant aspects are “handshake deals, flat-fee sales, and piracy.”[22] Lobato stresses that in spite of taking place off the record, informal methods of video, disc-based, and online distribution are actually the driving forces behind global film circulation: “Informal film commerce is, in a very important sense, a global norm rather than an exception or deviation. The international pirate economy exceeds the legal film industry in size, scale and reach; so one can reasonably argue that the ‘shadow’ economies are in fact integral to the traffic in images and sounds that supplies the world with its daily diet of entertainment.”[23]

Piracy is undeniably the norm and not the deviation in Venezuelan economy. According to the National Institute of Statistics, approximately 5,353,479 Venezuelans (40.7% of the working population) participate in the country’s informal economy.[24] Unregulated activities are part of the day-to-day of consumers, and the film economy is no exception. Even if a legal supply of national DVDs existed, it is uncertain whether at this point the habits of consumers could readjust to the costs of formally distributed goods; in fact, more Venezuelans buy pirate movies than attend theaters. In a 2006 interview, Abdel Guerere, president of the Venezuelan Association of Film Exhibitors, claimed that because of piracy, there were only three distribution companies left in Venezuela, down from twelve in 1999.[25]

Informal shops will always offer a greater variety of films than theaters, and clients can sometimes buy movies that have not yet premiered. The minimum wage is currently 22,576.60 Bolivars (roughly $22), and watching films at home is cheaper than going out.[26] Customers usually get to know the nearest pirate stores and become regular clients, depending on the diversity and the quality of each.[27] A seller in Puerto La Cruz explained to El Tiempo journalist Andrés Astudillo that he offered his clients the best quality because his copies were “not pirated”: “Before the movies make it to Venezuela, we have people in the U.S.A. and Mexico who acquire them. That way we reproduce them and we get what we call a backup of the original format.[28] This seller associated the term “pirated” with a quality (low resolution, noise) rather than with an illicit activity; his copies, by contrast, were “high class.” Also, as is the case of the majority of pirate film businesses, his merchandise consisted mostly of North American films.[29]

Hollywood films certainly make up the majority of the supply in pirate film stores in Venezuela. In a 2016 interview, a pirate DVD seller in Santa Fe Commercial Center, located in a middle-class neighborhood in Caracas, remarked that American films are the most demanded by customers.[30] The activities of establishments in other parts of the city confirm this to be true: stores choose to stock up on blockbusters and Hollywood films, and local productions are hard to find. Since Venezuelan film industry is considerably smaller than Hollywood, a comparison between their volume of production over the same period of time would be pointless.[31] However, the global monopoly established by the North American film industry might have a decisive influence on the tastes and demands of customers; in that sense, it is possible to speak of a hierarchy of value that applies to the commercialization of film (legal or illegal) and is superimposed on the one already established between high and low resolution, in which Hollywood productions occupy the top position while local films occupy the bottom.

Still, the lower profitability of Venezuelan films does not mean that there is no audience interested in buying them. In Caracas, there exist several stores that specialize in less commercial cinema, where recent and older local films can be found. Some of the best-known establishments of this sort are DVD stands located inside the Universidad Central de Venezuela that offer a wide variety of genres and countries. Remarkably, they have been completely assimilated by their academic surroundings—their presence provokes no outrage or criticism even from faculty or students, who are frequent customers. In an interview with Audiovisual Arts students at the University, most said that the stands in the University constitute their main source of “rare” films, including Venezuelan ones. Student Clarisa Quintero: “If I need to buy a Venezuelan film I go to the kiosk at the School of Mass Communications. The guy there has, or knows where to find, the hard-to-get films. . . . Our classes and homework are based on us having access to films. Many are old or classical, and you can’t find them anywhere else, so buying pirate copies is justified.”[32] Rolando González, a recent graduate from the Audiovisual Arts School, acknowledged that he used to buy most of his pirate movies (national and otherwise) at the University, and that “old Venezuelan films, or recent ones that stopped playing in the theaters, can’t be found anywhere else.”[33] González also mentioned visiting a seller of art-house and Venezuelan films by the capital’s Museo de Bellas Artes (where I bought the previously-mentioned defective copy of Araya).

It is worth noting that the two most popular establishments to find Venezuelan films in Caracas are located near or in prominent cultural institutions like the University and the Museum complex (which also includes the National Cinematheque). Pirate sellers make use of these installations freely and, in the case of the University, have developed an economic codependency with the institution. Through this dynamic, sellers locate and reinscribe marginalized Venezuelan films into spaces where they are conventionally meant to be protected, restored, researched, and made accessible. This juxtaposition of systems within an institutional space conceived to uphold national visual culture evinces a displacement of roles: as the state fails to facilitate legal access to Venezuelan films, individuals step in (literally) and fulfill their role by commercializing pirate copies.

Poor images in Venezuela are not only being openly traded within the context of cultural institutions; in some cases, they are also challenging the conventional assumption that transactions with piracy go unrecorded. In 2012, journalist Indira Rojas interviewed the owner of a pirate Blu-Ray store located in Centro San Ignacio, an upscale mall in Caracas. When she asked him why he sold pirate copies, he replied that his previous businesses had gone bankrupt, and the economic circumstances in the country had driven him to open the new store—implying that selling piracy was a safer bet this time.[34] Rojas explains that the owner rented his premises just like any other business in the mall, paid taxes, kept all his paperwork up to date, and did not need special permission to sell piracy.[35] This flawless assimilation of the commercialization of illegal goods into the fiscal system shows the degree to which informality is in fact the normal economy. Through this process of “formalization” the poor image might be slowly losing any political meaning within Venezuelan culture, and I believe it could eventually designate an aesthetic rather than an activity tied to illegality.

Displacement of Industries

In La industria creativa como engaño de masas, philosopher and art theorist Gerald Raunig references Paolo Virno’s view that residuality and informality have always been the future of culture; that the informality of a communicative action, the competitive interaction typical of a get-together, the brisk variation that animates a television program—anything that seems dysfunctional or difficult to regulate in our culture—has become a typical aspect of all social production.[36] Departing from these ideas, Raunig adds that today’s cultural industry follows a post-Fordist model in which “the informal and unprogrammed spaces, the aperture to the unforeseen and communicative improvisation, constitute the nucleus of it rather than its margins.”[37] In the case of the Venezuelan film economy, it is difficult to trace back just how or why informality became so widespread. In any case, it is clear that informal systems have entirely displaced any formal film distribution infrastructure that might have been in place earlier. No significant efforts are being made to combat film piracy, either, if sellers are even allowed to operate in cultural complexes and shopping centers, and pay taxes. As a result, informal methods of distribution now structure the film industry.

Politics of Exclusion

Poor images in Venezuela compensate for the absence of legally accessible options, but they are simultaneously commodified within the system of film piracy. They can be said to exist in a state of tension: while they are the lowest in the hierarchy defined by resolution, they are at the top of another structure of value that is defined by velocity and reach, which facilitates their integration into an information capitalism that precisely thrives on images that are easily and quickly accessible rather than high-quality.[38]

Venezuelan films are ignored by the institutions that should act as their formal distributors; this leaves piracy to become the default means of distribution. At the same time, this informal market favors the mainstream, predominantly Hollywood films more likely to drive sales and generate profit, which causes Venezuelan cinema to be further marginalized. Finding classical or independent Venezuelan films is not entirely impossible, as shown by my search of Araya, but their conditions of distribution are hardly ideal.

Where Is the Subversive Poor Image?

While the infrastructure for legally distributing Venezuelan films is practically nonexistent and pirate copies of mainstream American images dominate the “official” pirate film economy in the country, bits and pieces of Venezuelan audiovisual culture have managed to resist marginalization by surfacing on online platforms. Classical and independent Venezuelan films are available for free on YouTube, as are national box-office hits, episodes of banned television shows, and old music videos of artists whose recordings suffer a similar distribution crisis. Dedicated users have uploaded, for instance, Fernando Venturini’s essayistic documentary Zoológico (1992), but also clips from Radio Rochela, the iconic, socially-charged comedy show that disappeared when President Hugo Chávez closed Radio Caracas Televisión in 2007.[39] The second highest-grossing Venezuelan film in history, César Bolívar’s Homicidio Culposo (1983), is also streaming in its entirety, albeit cropped, shaky, and with an intermittent timestamp. Thaelman Urgelles’s youth culture film La Generación Halley (1986) is available in two versions: one complete, another divided in twelve parts. Fina Torres’s Camera d’Or winner Oriana (1985) is also available to watch in its entirety. Some of these videos have a handful of views while others have over 20,000; some are enhanced with comments expressing nostalgia for the good old days of national cinema. These YouTube users, perhaps unknowingly, are building a network that employs the platform and harnesses the possibilities offered by poor image circulation to rebuild a shared, orphaned audiovisual memory.

Although these YouTube users are diverse in origin—and YouTube is not a particularly friendly platform for engaging in detailed conversations—it is possible to generalize about different types of remarks regarding Venezuelan films that often appear in the comments sections. This can provide some insights about the sentimental connection between the users and the marginalized films, and the conversations that could arise more often if those films were widely available anywhere outside of YouTube. For instance, some of the most common observations and discussions revolve around the perceived decline in quality of national film production as it is today, with users praising the casts and production values of films from the 1980s and 1990s. As urban violence and corruption have been common themes of Venezuelan cinema throughout its history, many YouTube users also turn to the comments section of crime films to express their outrage at the state of moral decomposition of Venezuelan society and government, even if their remarks do not specifically reference the plot of the film. Though a thorough content analysis exceeds the goal of this paper, these YouTube interactions suggest that comparing the themes of current national films with those of the 80s and 90s could indicate whether the frustration and concerns of the public regarding personal security and political transparency are being addressed less frequently in recent productions.

a b

Fig. 1 & 2. Comments left by YouTube users on Cangrejo II (Román Chalbaud, 1984), a sequel to the successful Cangrejo (Chalbaud, 1982). Cangrejo portrayed the investigation following the kidnapping and murder of a 13-year-old boy in Caracas, popularly known as the “Vegas-Pérez Case.” Cangrejo II also took on a police/detective theme, this time about the murder of a woman involving her own brother, a priest. Both screenplays were adapted from real-life stories compiled in the book 4 Crímenes, 4 Poderes (“4 Crimes, 4 Powers”) by Fermín Mármol León, a former Police Commissioner. English translations below.

Fig. 1: Anast350: It is so good to see a production with excellent actors, top-notch performances, nothing like the things that are made today.
Zafiroazul verde: It is too bad that back then there was no Internet, cell phones with cameras, etc. that way we would have more information about the case, even pictures of the priest and his sister, and videos so we can know what they were like.
Fernandito3008 (to Anast350): I am glad you like it friend, I am collecting more Venezuelan cinema to upload later. Greetings and be well.
Fig. 2: Nahir Sirgo: Excellent film… excellent cast and great book…Fernandito3008 (uploader, 10 months ago) (to Nahir Sigo): I am glad you liked it friend, I am preparing more material from that time. Be well, greetings.
El chino papi (9 months ago) (to Fernandito3008): Look my friend, put up more films and series, it’s great that you publish these films they are so good congratulations
Fernandito3008 (9 months ago): Ok my friend I really haven’t had time because of other activities, but as soon as I can I will upload more. I will keep this in mind, thank you for your comment. Health and prosperity.

Uploads and interactions of Venezuelan YouTube users, like the ones shown above, are not subversive in and of themselves. However, they constitute a subversive use of poor images within the Venezuelan film economy, in which personal profit for the seller is the only goal and only the most profitable poor images are distributed. The free and public sharing of poor images conducted by these users simply stems from a desire to rescue a disregarded audiovisual legacy.

Hito Steyerl argues that the poor image is “about its own real conditions of existence: about swarm circulation, digital dispersion, fractured and flexible temporalities. It is about defiance and appropriation just as it is about conformism and exploitation. In short: it is about reality.”[40] The simultaneous coexistence of two types of poor image circulation—one disc-based, and a much smaller one through streaming platforms like YouTube—in the context of one nation’s film economy confirms that statement. Not all poor images are related to a culture of resistance against the monopolies of information and piracy and are no guarantee of democratization per se.

Conclusion

The conditions of the Venezuelan film economy demonstrate the scalability and flexible political potential of the poor image. Poor images can be said to be transnational: they are digital files that circulate through the Internet, across devices, and within platforms that are not limited by geographical borders. They constitute a worldwide economy of degraded images that are determined by information capitalism. However, these images cannot be understood only as a global phenomenon. As soon as a digital file is burnt to a disc and becomes merchandise in a national film economy, its impact becomes localized. Thus, the poor images that enable systems of illegal commerce through piracy, in which Hollywood films are at the top of the hierarchy of value, directly impact the health of smaller, local film industries and the conditions of access of audiences in their areas. Those systems or “shadow economies” are informal, highly decentralized, difficult to measure, and driven only by profitability; within them, images become commodities that generate the marginalization of less profitable ones.

In the case of Venezuela, nationally-produced films have been marginalized by the state, the private sector and the informal pirate market that focuses on Hollywood films. The nation’s film legacy is, therefore, almost inaccessible in disc form and, by in large, only available on open online platforms. These platforms permit configuration of a localized network of Venezuelan viewers to share national films for free, uploading files and interacting with each so as to revive a shared visual history that has been otherwise abandoned. The difference between the effects of disc-based piracy and online-based piracy on the Venezuelan economy further shows that poor images, despite being global, also operate within specific national frameworks.

Venezuelan films that are not included in the system of disc-based film piracy are ultimately able to resist marginalization thanks to open online platforms and the action of dedicated users who make them available. Therefore, those national films streaming for free on YouTube are more like the progressive, potentially subversive poor images described by Hito Steyerl—democratizing, resistant against the workings of capitalism—than the “quemaditos” sold on the streets. Ripped, re-uploaded, fragmented Venezuelan films refuse to disappear from common memory: they have no physical infrastructure to guarantee their persistence and float in a legal limbo, but by being easily accessible and highly shareable they defy the negligence of all the social forces at play in the complex national film economy.

Elvira Blanco is a media producer and researcher. She received her B.A. in Mass Communications from Universidad Monteávila, Caracas, and her M.A. in Media Studies from The New School, New York. She is currently editor of audiovisual content at the contemporary arts platform Backroom Caracas.

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NOTES

[1] Members of the “Bolivarian Revolution” define it as a leftist social movement, led by the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez (1999-2013). It is represented in power by current president Nicolás Maduro and other government officials belonging to the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), founded by Chávez in 2007.

[2] It is important to clarify that contraband is characteristic not only of film piracy, but of the economy in general. Due to price regulations established during Nicolás Maduro’s period (2013-), Venezuelans face food shortages and often buy basic goods from bachaqueros, black-market vendors who buy up and hoard regulated items when they are legally available in markets. Though the government has openly blamed bachaqueros for food shortages, they are allowed to operate freely. Contraband of regulated goods and gasoline into Colombia is also extensive. In many ways, this situation mirrors that of film and music piracy: an illegal activity is acknowledged as such but not addressed with a consistent policy.

[3] Hito Steyerl, “In Defense of the Poor Image,” e-flux Journal 10 (11/2009), 1. Hito Steyerl (Munich, 1966) is a filmmaker and media researcher whose work attempts to close the gap between theory and practice. Her films and essays address the role of media in processes of globalization, migration, and the dissemination of images, among other topics related to political theory, feminism, and militarization. She has lectured extensively in Europe since 2003, and her work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions across the world.

[4] Ibid, 6.

[5] Ibid, 4.

[6] Ibid, 8.

[7] Ibid, 4.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid, 6.

[10x] Rodrigo Llamozas, in email exchange with the author, May 5, 2015.

[11] CNAC: Centro Nacional Autónomo de Cinematografía.

[12] Llamozas in email exchange with the author, May 5, 2015.

[13] Marcel Rasquin, interview with the author via Skype, May 10, 2015.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Steyerl, “In Defense of the Poor Image,” 6.

[17] Under maintenance as of March, 2016.

[18] Llamozas, in email exchange with the author; Rasquin, interview with the author.

[19] Ramón Lobato, Shadow Economies of Cinema (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012), 4.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Encuesta de Hogares por Muestreo: Situación en la fuerza de trabajo, Venezuela. Informe Mensual, Noviembre 2015 (INE: Caracas, 2015), 9, accessed November 11, 2016, http://www.ine.gov.ve/documentos/Social/FuerzadeTrabajo/pdf/informemensual.pdf.

[25] Associated Press, “Copiado ilegal socava negocio del cine en Venezuela,” NEWSOK, October 8, 2006, accessed March 10, 2016, http://newsok.com/copiado-ilegal-socava-negocio-del-cine-en-venezuela/article/2953072; The situation seems to not have changed much in 2016, although I was unable to find official numbers.

[26] Based on the type of exchange rate most Venezuelans can access, which is through the black market: as of November 11, 2016, 1883.25 Bolivares was equivalent to 1 US Dollar.

[27] Andrés Astudillo, “Venezuela en la lista negra de piratería: Entre la crisis y el DVD ‘quemao’,” El Tiempo, June 6, 2012, accessed March 5, 2016, http://eltiempo.com.ve/locales/puertocruz/cine/venezuela-en-la-lista-negra-de-pirateria-entre-la-crisis-y-el-dvd-quemao/55859

[28] Ibid.; my italics.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Interview with anonymous seller by the author, August 25, 2016, Caracas, Venezuela.

[31] According to official numbers published by CNAC, the year 2015 set a record for most film premieres in the history of Venezuelan cinema, with a total of 31 new movies.

[32] Clarisa Quintero, interview by the author, August 26, 2016, Caracas, Venezuela.

[33] Rolando González, interview by the author, August 24, 2016, Caracas, Venezuela.

[34] Indira Rojas,“El país pirata,” Realidades de Indira (blog), August 16, 2012, accessed March 10, 2016, https://realidadesindira.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/el-pais-pirata/.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Gerald Raunig, “La industria creativa como engaño de masas,” trans. Gala Pin Ferrando and Glòria Mèlich Bolet (Vienna: European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies, 2007), 35.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Steyerl, “In Defense of the Poor Image,” 7.

[39] In 2007, the government of Venezuela decided not to renew Radio Caracas Televisión’s concession after the 20 years established by law. The station occupied the over-the-air channel 2. Its equipment and transmission network were subsequently seized by the state to establish a new station called TVES, which operates to this day. Though this measure was a non-renewal instead of an expropriation, it was preceded by explicit threats directed to RCTV from President Hugo Chávez and other officials, in response to an editorial line that was considered anti-government. For that reason, and for the confiscation of RCTV’s equipment, many (myself included) refer to this episode as an expropriation or arbitrary closure.

[40] Steyerl, “In Defense of the Poor Image,” 8.