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Intimacy and Sacrifice in a Venezuelan Migrant's Journey

www.newyorker.com
4 min read
fairly easy
Lauren Garcia on "Under the Heavens," a fictional drama by the Brazilian filmmaker Gustavo Milan, which takes place along a journey from Venezuela to Brazil, and explores conflicts among migrants confronting the same hardships.
The path to salvation is a stretch of roadside near the border of Brazil. Fat droplets of what appears to be sweat or tears fall onto the dirt, but they are neither. Rather, it's the breast milk of a woman named Marta, a Venezuelan migrant who has been walking alone along a rural expanse with nothing but a duffelbag. She has stopped at a tree to relieve her body of the fluid that it instinctually produces; milk quietly streams out of her nipple and onto the bark, manna wasted on a life that does not need her. Marta is, alas, a Madonna without child, a fractured Biblical image. The frame then directs its gaze upward, to the heavens, where the sun smirks at Marta like a tease.

Marta is the protagonist of the fictional drama "Under the Heavens." The film's director, Gustavo Milan, who is Brazilian, understands the insidiousness of migrants' aspirations to arrive at what he terms an "unreachable paradise." The film's name, however, also points to a more prosaic reality: "In a sense, the title refers to Marta's situation literally, as she is without home or roof, living and sleeping directly under the heavens," Milan told me, in an e-mail. Nearly six million refugees and migrants have left Venezuela since a series of disastrous…
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