Simon Bolivar Celebrated as “The Liberator”
By Skip Sheffield
Want a history lesson with plenty of violence and a side order of sex?
“The Liberator,” open at FAU’s Living Room Theaters, is a fictionalized account of South America’s “Great Liberator” Simon Bolivar. The script is by Timothy J. Sexton (“Children of Men”) and it is directed by Alberto Arvelo. The film is Venezuela’s official Best Foreign Language submission for the 2015 Academy Awards.
Dashing, handsome Edgar Ramirez (“Carlos,” “Zero Dark Thirty”) plays Bolivar and Maria Valverde is his ill-fated wife Maria Theresa, whose death from Yellow Fever was a turning point in Bolivar’s life.
Anyone with a passing education of South America knows Simon Bolivar was an important figure. This movie dramatizes the man’s ambition, bravery and magnetic appeal to both sexes.
Bolivar was from an aristocratic family. His detractors called him a rich boy and dilettante. Venezuelan director Alberto Arvelo depicts Bolivar as a true hero who believed in the freedom of all peoples.
The story is prefaced by the fact Bolivar fought more than 100 battles, travelled more than 70,000 miles on horseback and was the liberator of former Spanish colonies that became Venezuela, Colombia (including Panama), Ecuador, Peru, and the country named after him, Bolivia. All this was accomplished in just 47 years.
The story begins in 1828 with what was one of many attempts on Bolivar’s life, and then it flashes back to the idyllic time of Bolivar’s courtship and winning in Europe of the love of his life, Maria Theresa (Maria Valverde).
Bolivar brought Maria Theresa back to South America, but their idyll was short-lived. She died, perhaps pregnant, of Yellow Fever after only six months of marriage.
Bolivar returned to Paris to drown his sorrows. His conscience is reawakened by his mentor Simon Rodriguez (Francisco Denis) who called Bolivar a “Noble Savage” and encouraged him to adhere to the ideals of Washington, Jefferson and Rousseau and fight for freedom.
Danny Huston plays a small but pivotal recurring role as a cynical British banker who is willing to back Bolivar’s revolution if it profits him.
Bolivar never remarried, but he was satisfied emotionally and physically by an aristocratic mistress, Manuela Saenz (Juana Acosta).
A lot of history is crammed into a movie just under two-hours long. Think of this as a kind of Cliff Notes version of the life of the man who more than anyone else freed South America from the oppression of Spanish rule.