Lake Maracaibo is a large tidal bay and a major fishing route in the North East of Venezuela. Whilst it’s one of the oldest lakes on Earth, its claim to fame is a weather phenomenon called the Catatumbo lightning; producing storms on almost half the night of the year. It is also the home for many small settlements which have sprung up around its shores. Set on stilts, one such community is Congo Mirador.

The villagers are preparing for the parliamentary elections. A once thriving and vibrant outpost, poverty and pollution have both had their toll. Today, silt and sediment are the biggest threat. Along which the corruption which spans the country. Local businesswoman and Chavist Party representative Tamara will go to any lengths to succeed. This put her at odds with the local teacher who supports the opposition. Their story is captured in Once Upon a Time in Venezuela.

Whilst Once Upon a Time in Venezuela is an intricate and fascinating story of a small community which in itself reflects the larger problems within the South American nation, it’s also a wonderful piece of filmmaking. The natural beauty of the area is not lost on director Anabel Rodriguez Rios, nor is the poverty and rot. She takes these elements and weaves them into a modern fable about a country torn between past and present.

Once Upon a Time in Venezuela screens at IDFA.