Laughter in Times of Crisis

It is not a secret that the crisis in the once most stable democracy in South America, Venezuela, has deepened even further in the past two years. Venezuelans have little to celebrate given the high inflation, scarcity of goods, and rampant crime. Movies have always been a way to escape crisis in the past. Hollywood itself made efforts to provide abundant films during World War I and II to give Americans a break from the bad news.  Comedy, specifically, has been crucial in such relief process hence the many classics from Chaplin, the Keystone Cops, The Three Stooges, and many others who kept Americans laughing while the wars were going on. The same formula seems to be working with Venezuelans. Last year three Venezuelan comedies (“Papita, Mani y Toston,” “Solteras Indisponibles,” and “El Peor Hombre del Mundo”) top the Venezuelan box office above any other Venezuelan film that wasn’t about comedy.

Looking to ride that wave, producers Augusto Nitti and Thomas Piedra just finished shooting “El Tercer Deseo” (The Third Wish), a light comedy about a middle aged salesman (Cesar Bencid) who, after a bad day at work, stumps into a teapot awakening it’s magic powers and getting in the most hilarious situations. The cast is formed by Piedra and Nitti alongside Carlos Antonio León (“Ann” “Shadowland”), Maria Antonieta Duque, Martha Estrada, Alejandro Rivas and Erick Ronso among others. The genre posed a challenge for many including director Javier Mujica (“The 86”) an accomplished filmmaker whose forte lays on thrillers and action films but rarely in comedy yet was able to direct the actors into the funniest non-cliché situations. “We were trying our best not to fall for the cheap laugh but rather the smart one…we wanted it to be organic, fresh, natural without manufacturing the ‘fun’ too much. Mujica was crucial to accomplish that; he was spending a lot of time with all actors to make sure our dialogues and expressions were simpler yet funny with the right punch”—says León who plays “the boss.” The movie will likely come out in Venezuelan theatres by the end of the year.