Mariana Rondón is a director, screenwriter, producer, and visual artist from Barquisimeto, Venezuela. She completed her residency at The Bellagio Center in 2017. Her movies include the dramas Bad Hair (2013), Postcards from Leningrad (2007), and her upcoming project Zafari, which was the focus of her residency.

When I was younger, all I wanted was to study cinema. I tried my luck in Europe, where I had all kinds of jobs, but film school was too expensive. Eventually, I found out about the San Antonio de los Baños Academy, in Cuba, which had just been founded by Gabriel Garcia Márquez. I applied and was accepted, and that was an important breakthrough for me. There, I met my long-time Peruvian colleague, Marité Ugás, and we created Sudaca Films, the production house we work under until today.

Marité and I have always co-written our projects, and Zafari, the film-in-progress that we took to Bellagio, was no exception. The program gave us the chance to attend together, as a team. It was tremendously exciting to find out we had been selected to what turned out to be one of the most beautiful and thought-provoking journeys of our lives. After decades of attending festivals and events to pitch scripts and discuss money, I never imagined how interesting it would be to discuss one of my film projects with an economist, or a biologist, or even with a lawyer, for a change.

  • I never imagined how interesting it would be to discuss one of my film projects with an economist, or a biologist, or even with a lawyer, for a change.
    Mariana Rondón
    Director, Screenwriter, Producer, and Visual Artist

The ongoing economic and political Venezuelan crisis—its human scale, and its social and cultural implications—is always present in my work. That’s the overarching theme of Zafari: scarcity, migration, and the lengths Venezuelans are willing to go to survive. The film is a dark comedy—a dystopian depiction of the darkest period of the Venezuelan crisis, when food was largely unavailable and animals started to go missing from the zoo because people were eating them.

And to be able to have long conversations about universal issues with a member of the French Agricultural Academy—Henri Rouillé d’Orfeuil—was deeply enlightening. I spent long nights with Henri talking about the fables of La Fontaine, which adorn the walls of the dining room at the Bellagio. We found common threads between his profound knowledge of agriculture and development, and the focus on scarcity and exodus in my film.

Coming from an overly hectic and stressful period in my life—of constantly migrating, moving places and trying to escape the somber reality that’s taken over my country—this was a much-needed reset. It was fundamental for my project, which basically underwent a rebirth there, but also for myself as a human being.

The residency gave me a much-needed push and a renewed sense to write and make cinema. Ever since we came back from Bellagio, Safari hasn’t stopped growing. Several co-producers from different countries have now backed the project, and we are currently scouting locations in Peru and getting ready to shoot. One of those new backers for the film is from France, and so we now have a French version of the script. I’ll be sending it soon to my new friend Henri, who will finally be able to read it —I very much look forward to hearing his thoughts.

Explore More

We’d like to thank Mariana for her continued contribution to the network. You can watch several of her movies on the arthouse streaming service Mubi.

Find out more about Mariana’s films and art projects on her website.

You can connect with Mariana’s Sudaca Films on Instagram.

About the Bellagio Center

Since 1959 The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center has hosted thousands of artists, policymakers, scholars, authors, practitioners, and scientists from all over the world enabling them time and space to work, to learn from each other, and to turn ideas into actions that change the world. To learn more about the Bellagio Center’s Residency and Convening programs visit The Rockefeller Foundation’s website: