El Libertador: Simon Bolivar (the movie)

I saw an interesting movie the other night. “El Libertador” (The Liberator) is about Simon Bolivar (played by Édgar Ramírez, who also appeared in Zero Dark Thirty). The movie is a great primer for those unfamiliar with this crucial bit of South American history and the director managed to keep this epic story to 2-hours in length.


Few people outside of Latin America are familiar with this fascinating leader, who led the revolution for independence from Spain in the early 1800’s and united Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia into the country of Gran Colombia. The lush sets stand in contrast to the tyranny of the Spanish empire: massacring the indigenous, enslaving Africans, and crushing those opposed to colonization.

Simon Bolivar

Simon Bolivar


Born into a wealthy family, Bolívar might have been immune to such injustices, but orphaned at an early age he was raised by a slave he called “mother” and tutored by a socialist-leaning teacher. Hence he bonded and sympathized with people of different classes and ideas – an extraordinary trait in an aristocratic land holder at the turn of the 19th century.


Edgar Ramirez in title role

Edgar Ramirez stars as Simon Bolivar.


Maria Valverde stars as the love of his life


The loss of his young  wife Maria Teresa, to yellow fever, is the turning point in his life. (The love scenes are minor but beautiful.)  He finds his cause in the fight for freedom, equality and dignity for all and becomes a skillful general and inspired leader.


His heroic military campaigns covered tens of thousands of miles of difficult territory, including jungles and the snowy Andes Mountains. (Confession – I rented this on Netflix and fast-forwarded through the many battle scenes.)


A man of the people

A man of the people

Bolivar finances the war using his own wealth, with the support of British businessmen, and galvanizes the multiple races, tribes and neighboring states around the idea of fighting for a united sovereign country.  He freed the slaves in 1816 and the Republica de Gran Colombia (the territory previously called Nueva Granada) was formed in 1820 with Bolivar as president. He continued the fight in Peru and Bolivia for the next four to five years before they too won independence and joined the republic .


Bolivar merged the vice-royalties (states) into the  Republica de Gran Colombia


Sadly internal divisions sparked dissent throughout the nation as different leaders fought for power and eventually the republic was divided into separate states. Bolivar died in 1830, officially of tuberculosis, although the movie suggests a controversial assassination. Parks and plazas around the world, and especially in Latin America, are named in his honor (as well as the currency of Venezuela and Bolivia).

The movie is in English and Spanish (and occasionally French) with English subtitles. The colonial sets and cinematography are wonderful. It made the shortlist of best foreign language film category of the Academy Awards this year. Produced in collaboration with Venezuelan and Spanish companies and given a majestic score composed by Gustavo Dudamel of the LA Philharmonic. See this film if you like sweeping, romantic movies or want to learn some history crucial to South America.

Were you familiar with Simon Bolivar’s story before reading this? (His-tory).  If so, are you from Latin America?

16 thoughts on “El Libertador: Simon Bolivar (the movie)

  1. I’m sure that some of those expat Venezuelans I’ve met (during my Sunday trips to Toronto tourist destinations) have seen the movie “The Liberator”.


  2. In recent years, I’ve become fascinated with Latin America, and Venezuela in particular, and taking courses in Spanish, learning grammar and conversation. There has been a large influx of Venezuelan immigrants settling in Toronto, and have been meeting quite a few of them at various Toronto tourist destinations which include the Exhibition grounds and on the TTC (includes the “511 Bathurst” streetcar); this influx of expatriate Venezuelans is known as the “Bolivarian Diaspora”. When I meet them during my Sunday trips to these Toronto tourist destinations and hear them speaking Spanish, I want to join in their conversation. Speaking of Sunday, it is is the traditional day for expatriate Venezuelan families living in Toronto to go out together, and many popular Toronto tourist destinations have special activities on Sundays.


    • I’m sure many of them would be delighted if you spoke to them and even let you practice your Spanish. I envision you making new friends! Latinos are a friendly lot and after all they are “strangers in a strange land.” I have an elderly friend who has left his lifetime home because of the troubles there; last I heard from him he was looking for a new country to take he and his wife in. Not easy.


  3. Not an academy award winner, but I enjoyed the movie too. Not many Americans are familiar with Simon Bolivar, but he is deservedly revered in South America.


  4. Interesting man! I knew very little about him and so I found this post especially interesting. You changed your website format, didn’t you?


  5. My sister has pointed out that I spelled “El Liberatador” as “”Libertador.” However if you look at the movie title they have spelled it both ways. Maybe ” Liberatador” is the old spelling; I am leaving it as ‘Libertador’ because that is the word I am familiar with. Comments?


    • I’ll have to see if I can watch this movie.

      You should be able to edit the title of the post, but the link will remain the same i.e. with the spelling mistake, unless you specifically change it.


    • Thanks Rosanna.. I’ll try. (Seems to have worked!) You should check out the movie – there are a few slow sections but as a South American aficianada I think you will appreciate it.


    • I haven’t heard of the Simon Bolivar Orchestra – I’ll keep an ear out for them. 😉 Thanks for the link… oh I see they call it Gustavo Dudamel’s orchestra. (He wrote the wonderful music in the movie.) Last I heard he led the the LA Philharmonic so no surprise that they are so good and he IS from Venezuela.


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