Vamos Pal Matiné is a film about ‘Changa Tuki’ – here Arca interviews director Roberto López about the wild party music that defined Caracas in the 2000s and gave its kids a chance to forget their problems
El Resort is responsible for the most vital documentaries coming out of Venezuela I’ve ever seen. I was introduced to Roberto López, one of its founders, and their work by our mutual friend Pacheko (Francisco Mejías). Immediately after I watched some of their documentaries I was blown away how much heart, blood and sweat there is in each of the films, and fell especially in love with El Resort’s latest work that tackles the complicated, beautiful, violent, cathartic, joyous, problematic and most of all autochthonous phenomenon that is “el Matiné”.
Can you explain what El Resort means to you, what the team is, and what you hope to accomplish?
Roberto López: El Resort is the name of the platform we use to tell the stories we want everybody to know and enjoy. At the moment we are two members – Daniel García and myself. We hope to become a place where people from Venezuela and the rest of the world can find amazing stories of our country.
What was your goal in sharing the story of los matinées? I find it so beautiful and important that this part of Venezuelan youth culture’s expression was documented with so much respect.
Roberto López: Our goal was to share what we felt when we started to know the amazing stories, music and dancing that were behind the movement. Every single time Elberth or one of the protagonists told us their stories we knew that we had found gold and felt the need to start sharing it with everybody. There was more to this controversial movement, a human side that we had to share.
Do you think about how little documentation there is about Venezuelan popular culture?
Roberto López: Perhaps there is documentation, but it’s poorly told and hard to find. That's one of the problems we found while doing research for Vamos Pal Matiné. It was pretty hard – next to impossible – to find documentation about matinés. Basically we had to start from scratch, which was kind of weird knowing that matinés were an important part of our popular culture in the early 2000s. We as filmmakers are trying our best to change this in our country by making documentaries with powerful images and immersive narratives that entertain and reach as many people as possible, while leaving a document behind for the generations to come that want to know about their past.
Our mutual friend Pacheko (Francisco Mejias) put together ‘quien quiere tuki’ in 2012 and that changed and deepened my understanding of raptor house/changa tuki, even though I was born and raised in Caracas. The socioeconomic bubbles there keep scenes so isolated from one another that I had no idea there was such a vibrant music scene in the hardest barrios of Caracas at the time. But even despite that — everyone would have minitecas (DJs that played changa tuki) at any party in the 90s — the music itself transcended and became a part of the entire city, even the middle class and upper middle class – even if most people weren’t aware of its origins. ‘Changa’ was everywhere. The music itself has so much life and vitality, the energy is infectious, celebratory, like a virus of vitality, and it felt 100 per cent Venezuelan. Do you have any thoughts on why the music sounded the way it did, emotionally?
Roberto López: I think changa was a perfect reflection of the violence and adrenaline of the barrio at that time. It’s something you can feel in the music, the speed and energy rush you feel when you listen to changa makes your senses out of control. It was a perfect beat to let yourself go and I think that was what made it so popular with the youngsters who went to the matinés – it was the only way they had to forget their problems for a while and be themselves with a rhythm they could call their own.
“It was the only way they had to forget their problems for a while and be themselves with a rhythm they could call their own” – Roberto López
What was the most surprising thing you learned about the matine scene when putting the documentary together?
Roberto López: Above all, the most surprising thing was the violence, it was something that was out of control. Despite that we focused the documentary in a positive way, looking at how discos solved the violence issues through competition between badly behaved groups and awarding prizes. In the end it was a major issue that overran all the matinés parties and finally put and end to the movement. The owner of a night club once told us that in the middle of a matiné, a teenager broke a toilet and grabbed a piece to stab another teen. Stabbing was the most popular way to face an adversary at that time, now it’s by firearm.
What are you working on next?
Roberto López: Right now I’m working with a group of friends on a project called @_trendingtropic, a documentary about the protest developing in Venezuela, where the goverment, through a series of unconstitutional rulings and indefinitely avoiding any popular election, established a dictatorship. That’s the reason people have been fighting in the streets for more than 70 days and counting, and we are with them documenting this story.