Friday, February 9

A Film for Our Times

If you have a little time, reward it generously by watching this film. My explanation follows.

Gdansk Panorama (bearing no relation to present post)

"I do believe that Hugo Chavez is destroying his own country economically, politically." Condoleezza Rice, conveying dangerous delusions to the U.S. Congress.

During my first year of leading a seminar on American studies in Japan, I tried to teach a group of five students, among other things, the power of broadcast media to shape public opinion; the importance and relative reliability of critical, independent media; the power of corporations to bend governments to their will without regard for the desires or needs of a nation's citizens; the democracy deficit in the United States and its causes; and the largely untapped but undeniable power that citizens in any country can wield when they come together and resist alien order. Well, it was quite a struggle to convey all these ideas in the time and constraints (many linguistic in nature) within which I worked.

The other night, however, I saw a movie that, with little dialog (albeit much in Spanish) conveyed all of these issues with gripping real-life drama. So, despite the fact that the movie's action takes place entirely in Caracas, Venezuela, it would have made for an excellent introduction to an American studies seminar. No big-budget spectacle, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" is an on-the-spot documentary of a military coup as it develops slowly, is cynically executed, and swiftly reversed. Incidentally, the film bears the title that comes from a Gil Scott-Heron song that was, in fact, the primary object of one of my student's research papers. (The film is also referred to as "Chavez - Inside the Coup," perhaps due to copyright issues.)

The documentary was shot by two BBC reporters who had not anticipated the coup in which they were to be caught up at the risk of their lives. It was their intention merely to document the political life of Hugo Chavez, out of a desire for objective understanding rather than a spirit of ideological partisanship. I was riveted to the screen as the film played on my computer, for a couple of reasons. I was not aware of the details of the coup and therefore could not anticipate how it would proceed; and, a couple of months earlier, I had read a detailed account of the incredibly vicious and bloody U.S.-sponsored coup in Chile and recognized that all the same types of forces were pitted against one another in Venezuela, only with remarkably different results. In this case, not only does democracy defeat U.S.-backed corporate hooliganism, but it does so by avoiding a bloodbath.

Before I say another word or inflate expectations to bursting point, know that I found the document here. It can be watched online or downloaded here.

If you still find a shred of credibility in the petro-imperialism of Condoleezza Rice and others in the Bush administration who cloak themselves in the language of democracy while working aggressively to suppress it; or if you spend regular stretches of your life gazing at the obsequious corporate media that echo the administration's war-mongering and banditry, have a look at this documentary. Ask yourself, who is willing to destroy not only Venezuela but any hope for democracy both there and, yes, in the United States of America?

The film goes miles further down the road toward exposing the nature of U.S. government policy and the dishonesty of its "mainstream media" than Micheal Moore's much-heralded-and-reviled Fahrenheit 911.

Here is an insightful article by Naomi Klein who puts the media troubles in Venezuela in perspective and compares them to the situation in the United States. And there's also an excellent information page relating to the film.

Because of its topic and the impassioned tone of the citizens it depicts, the film bears a striking resemblance to the incredible French-language film by the Lithuanian-based Englishman Peter Watkins. Called "La Commune (1871, Paris)," the film anachronistically portrays the radically different coverage given to the nineteenth-century popular uprising by "state TV" (corresponding to today's corporate media) as opposed to low-budget, independent media. And you can imagine which side portrays the popular uprising in an accurate light, and which distorts it as the work of "outsiders" or "terrorists."

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