Venezuela: Judge issues nationwide ban on film about boxer

A Caracas Children and Teenagers Protection Court judge, Salvador Mata García, issued a nationwide ban on film ‘El Inca’, based on the life of boxer Edwin “El Inca” Valero, as a preliminary measure in response to a complaint by the boxer’s family, reported El País on 25 December 2016.

The ban includes the movie’s screening, its advertising of any kind and through any medium, and the destruction of the cinema copies of the film; the master copy was to be surrendered to the court.

The complaint, presented by Valero’s mother and two of his siblings, invokes the late boxer’s constitutional right to honour, as well as that of the family. It also demands that their right to privacy is respected.

The measure was justified, in the ruling, by invoking the Constitution and Organic Law for the Protection of Children and Teenagers. By screening the movie, the family alleged, Valero’s children would be negatively affected emotionally and socially.

Director disagrees with decision
The movie, directed by Ignacio Castillo Cottin, premiered on 25 November 2016 and was doing well, until it was removed from all cinemas nearly three weeks later on 14 December 2016. The director maintains that he is not attacking anyone’s privacy or honour.

“Our audiovisual production is an artistic work based on a public figure and notorious events, his life was documented and different versions of it have been reviewed. ‘El Inca’ is an interpretation of this story, in which its author, exercising his right to freedom of expression, has presented his view on the issue.” Castillo Cottin and film producer Nathalie Sar-Shalom stated in a press release.

Oswaldo Cali, the producer’s lawyer, reckons it was not only showing the boxer’s dark side that triggered the ban. Valero was a lively supporter of late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, whose face he had tattooed on his chest. Chávez had invited Valero to his own TV show and labelled him an iconic revolutionary sportsman.

“In Venezuela, justice is not independent, there are signs of a political component in the film’s censorship,” Cali said.

The director of the film is the son of well-known opposition journalist Leopoldo Castillo, who is living in exile in Miami.

Family’s varied attempts to stop production
The boxer’s family had been in touch with the producers at the beginning of the project, but after their request to have one of Valero’s brothers play him in the film was turned down, the relationship spiralled to a point where communication ceased between the two parties.

At that point, the family issued a video statement on YouTube demanding President Nicolás Maduro to do something to stop the film from seeing light, as they claimed it was “loaded with lies”. When that tactic failed, the family tried to sue the producers over intellectual property, which also failed given the public nature of the facts upon which the movie is based. After that they filed a complaint citing constitutional rights to honour and privacy.

“My brother’s children endured a very harsh trauma when their parents died and now they’ll go through an even worse one when this film is displayed.” said Edwar Valero, brother of the late boxer. “It’s only fair that they’d give them economic support at least, because they need it really badly, since they haven’t got any assistance.”

Past film censorship in Venezuela
Despite the producers’ claims, this is not the first case of censorship in Venezuela’s film industry. The most notorious case prior to ‘El Inca’ was that of Luis Correa’s 1981 film ‘Ledezma, el caso Mamera’ (Ledezma, the Mamera case). The film portrayed a fictional account of a real crime committed by a metropolitan police officer in the country.

Because of the nature of the film, the director was imprisoned on charges of “connivance by expressing approval of a criminal act”. The film was also banned from public display.

Most recently, in 2005, the movie ‘Secuestro Express’ (Express Kidnapping) triggered two trials, one against the movie and another against its director, Jonathan Jakubowicz, who was facing a six to ten-year prison sentence. Jakubowicz told newspaper El Nacional that Hugo Chávez suggested, in his January 2006 speech at the National Assembly, that he should be investigated for “offending the Armed Forces”, given he displayed an homosexual soldier in his film.

Photo: Pa’los Panas Producciones Facebook page


» – 29 December 2016
Polemic chases mythic Venezuelan boxer even after his death

» El País – 25 December 2016
Venezuela censors movie about the life of boxer Inca Valero

» El Nacional – 17 December 2016
Ignacio Castillo Cottin: “They did not give us time to defend ourselves”

» Espacio Público – 16 December 2016
Court censors Venezuelan film about boxer Edwin “El Inca” Valero

» Twitter – 15 December 2016
Pa’los Panas Productions’ press release

» El Universal – 22 November 2016
“El Inca” relatives reject film about the Venezuelan boxer

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