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Araya

More or less unseen for half a century (it has just been restored and will play in select cities), Margot Benacerraf’s starkly beautiful 1959 documentary Araya is the rare film whose austere stylistic impersonality is a key aspect of its elemental power. Benacerraf records the rituals of workers in a Venezuelan salt marsh — men who lift salt chunks out of the ocean shallows, then tote the crystals in baskets to form giant pyramids — in labors unaltered from 500 years ago. The movie has an undertow of poetic Marxism: It reveres this work, yet also silently protests its noble, grueling sameness. B+

Araya
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