Modernizing the nation: democracy and authoritarianism in the film action Committee of the oil industry (Venezuela, 1947-1951)

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After the 1943 Oil Act, petroleum companies working in Venezuela aligned themselves with the emerging elites and their moderate nationalism, and projected themselves as essential to Venezuela’s progress by establishing public relations departments, social and cultural responsibility agendas (Tinker Salas), and film programs that targetted their work force and Venezuelan population. The Film Action Committee of the Oil Industry (1947-1951) was the first of these ventures. In this article, I will analyze Venezuela elige su destino (Gunther von Fritsch, 1948) y Vialidad, símbolo de progreso (Arteries of Progress, Henwar Rodakiewicz, 1950), both made by the Princeton Film Center for the Film Action Comittee. Approaching them as industrial films (Hediger & Vonderau, 2009a), I will focus on their production and reception context, as well as the ways in which they represent the modernization of Venezuela according to the political views of two different regimes: the democratizing Trienio Adeco (1945-1948) and the authoritarian Decada Militar (1948-1958). Through such representations, I will show that petroleum companies challenged the Venezuelan state’s aim to present itself as the sole modernizing agent while, at the same time, submitted to its sovereignty.


Venezuela, Oil Industry, Modernization, Democracy, Corporate Filmmaking.

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