Manuel Trujillo Durán
Manuel María Segundo de la Trinidad Trujillo Durán
8 January 1871
|Died||14 March 1933(aged 62)|
|Known for||Pioneering film in Venezuela|
|possibly Un célebre especialista sacando muelas en el gran Hotel Europa and Muchachos bañándose en el lago|
At age 14, Trujillo began studying at the Colegio Federal de Varones. He then embarked on his photography career, founding his "El rayo de luz" photo studio in 1896, in front of the Baralt Theatre. Here, he would produce and develop images for his magazine of the same name from 1897. It is suggested that he built the studio himself, as he was eager and attentive to carpentry. He also founded the Gutenberg newspaper. Several of his photographs were used in other publications, too, including national ones. He then founded the Trujillo y Arraga photographic hall, with the painter Julio Arraga, as an exhibition centre for "photographic art and artistic creation [to come] together".
Trujillo was a photographer by trade and an associate of Luis Manuel Méndez who learned how to use a Vitascope, and be a film technician, when Méndez acquired one and brought it to Venezuela in 1896. For many years[note 1] it was believed that Trujillo had brought the technology to Venezuela himself, and this still appears in some records, but as film scholarship appeared in the nation records showed Méndez to have been the man who got the film projector in New York City. Trujillo's past relationship dealing with the Edison Company is evidence used to support his pioneering claims; as well as travel records, Méndez had ties to the Kinetoscope Company, which produced and sold the projectors.
It is perhaps fortunate that Méndez brought the technology to Maracaibo, where Trujillo lived, allowing Trujillo to become the second man in Venezuela to be able to show films, and so he can be counted as a pioneer in this way. It is also possible that Trujillo produced the first Venezuelan films, shown in Maracaibo in 1897, or that he worked on them with his brother Guillermo. However, film scholarship considers this "very unlikely" due to the facts he would not have had a cinema camera and that he was in Táchira when the films were screened. His reason for being in Táchira, though, was to distribute and promote the Vitascope, so he was still doing good work introducing cinema to other parts of the country.
Though it is generally now agreed that Trujillo was only employed to operate the projector during Venezuela's first film screenings in 1896, it is still a widespread belief in the nation — and, indeed, worldwide — that he did make the first Venezuelan films in 1897. In an article, film scholar Arturo Serrano discusses this, saying there are "two tendencies" in the nation's history: one promoting Trujillo as "the most important pioneer of Venezuelan cinema", with the other tendency seeing him as an employee and artist adjacent to the true pioneers. Serrano also mentions that even the first tendency does not say with certainty that Trujillo made the first films, but believe that it's "very likely".
This hasn't stopped Trujillo from becoming a legend in Venezuela, with the population generally seeing him as their national father of film, and the National Short Film Festival founded in 1990 named after him. He has been reverently described as "a transhuman entrepreneur of spectacle in Maracaibo and elsewhere [in Venezuela]", and a "journalist, painter and apprentice of everything human", with biographers claiming that "his presence gave wings to Maracaibo, allowed thought and illusions, criticism and theory to circulate".