Go to the movies this weekend. The US Occupation in Iraq is getting worse; the 9/11 Commission isn’t worth a damn as Bill Christison has pointed out here on CounterPunch; and CNN has reported that John Kerry addressed over 1,000 “activists” (?) at a dinner in Chicago that raised over a $1 million for the Kerry ’04 campaign (that’s roughly $1000 per person: must have been PETA “activists”).
Sometimes you need a reprieve. Get out of the house and head to the cinema where you will find the documentary, The Revolution Will Not be Televised. Filmmakers Kim Bartley & Donnacha O’Briain happened to be in the presidential palace shooting footage for a documentary about the charismatic President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez when he was forcibly removed from office.
It may seem odd that I am telling you to escape from the politics on your televisions and computers for a few hours to go see a documentary on the politics of Venezuela. Unlike some stupid action movie or the yuppie crap that Hollywood is producing en mass, Revolution contains all of the elements that make a good story such as conflict and a leader with personality, ego, and a heart, but those who shine in this film are the 80% of the population who are Chavez’s loyal supporters. Before Chavez was elected in 1998, 80% of the nation’s oil revenues were kept by the state, making the top 20% of the people quite wealthy while the rest were impoverished. Chavez raised the oil prices after the election and distributed most of the profits to social programs, much to the joy of the poor and working class, and much to the ire of the corporate elites in Venezuela and Washington.
Lively and cheerful pro-Chavez demonstrations and parades occur frequently and attract many thousands. Supporters pass letters of love, solidarity, and pleas for help to Chavez and his associates. Members of the presidential staff read them all. Chavez in his speeches encourages the public to become actively involved. Those who were apathetic before Chavez now avidly follow politics; one young women attributed her previous indifference to the lack of a true people’s leader. He takes calls from Venuzuela’s citizens on a weekly radio show.
There is one state owned channel that Chavez appears on to talk to the public, where in the film, he denounced the war in Afghanistan, but the five largest television stations are privately owned, and are quite hostile to Chavez and the majority of the population. The “news” shows on the private stations eerily resemble American news programs such as Hannity and Colmes, The O’Reilly Factor, and Scarbourough Country where members of the ruling elites tells jokes that are not funny and carp about the President whom they would like to see removed.
And the ruling elites almost did that. The whiter, wealthier minority of Venezuela, like the whiter, wealthier minority here in the US, love to moan to anyone who will listen how they have “worked so hard” and want to keep their money. In one scene, they are at a meeting where the facilitator sternly warns the group to beware of what they say around their hired help.
Revolution shows us that the elites are not all powerful and the people not all powerless. It is not Chavez alone who has strengthened Venezuela to the point that it can fight the wealthy and their neo-liberal policies, but it is the mass grassroots activity of poor and working people partnered with a people’s government that keeps Venezuela a true democracy. The film enables us here in the United States to see that there is a country that actually belongs to it people.
I will not give away the details, but the coup occurred on April 11, 2002, and lasted 48 hours, knocking the US 1994 Republican Revolution out of first place as the shortest of all right wing revolutions in all of human history.
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is not playing in your town? Check for screenings in your area: http://www.chavezthefilm.com/html/film/screens.htm.
The film, I assure you, is worth an interstate commute. Can’t find it? Call the theatre and ask them why (I advise you to try independent theatres first, since you may not have much luck with Loews Cineplex or Hoyt’s since they specialize in stupid action movies and yuppie crap).
*All information for this piece was either derived from the film itself or its official website: http://www.chavezthefilm.com
BRANDY BAKER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org