The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

In an incredibly fortuitous instance of being in the right place at the right time, filmmakers Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain traveled to Caracas in the fall of 2001 to make a film about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Six years after his failed "Bolivarian" revolution and a subsequent two-year stretch in prison, Chavez was elected to the presidency...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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In an incredibly fortuitous instance of being in the right place at the right time, filmmakers Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain traveled to Caracas in the fall of 2001 to make a film about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Six years after his failed "Bolivarian" revolution and a subsequent two-year stretch in prison, Chavez was elected to the presidency in 1998. His platform combined a wholesale rejection of globalization and what he called the "savage project of neo-liberalism" embraced by President Carlos Andres Perez, with a radical nationalism that appealed to the country's impoverished majority. Using the great liberator Simon Bolivar as both role model and spiritual guide, Chavez promised to redistribute wealth and release Venezuela from the stranglehold that the IMF and U.S.-imposed free-market policies held over his country's decimated economy. Given that Venezuela ranks as one of the world's largest producers of oil, such talk not only made Washington extremely nervous — Colin Powell has publicly questioned the democratically elected leader's commitment to, er, democracy — but made Chavez dangerous enemies within Venezuela's moneyed classes, who managed to keep revenues from the state-owned oil industry from trickling into the teeming slums that encircle the country's cities. So it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise when, in the midst of a general strike early April 2002, a coup was engineered. Using wildly distorted reports of a violent clash between a large pro-Chavez group and a smaller opposition demonstration that made it seem as though the Chavez supporters were responsible for shooting nearly two dozen demonstrators to death, the anti-Chavez camp made their move. Bartley and O'Briain and their cameras were there to capture it all. In a incredible stroke of luck, they also happened to be inside the besieged presidential palace as Chavez later attempted to resist forced resignation and avert a disastrous bombing of the building. The similarities to the "Battle of Chile" and the 1973 murder of Salvador Allende are striking, but surprisingly, this story has a happy ending. Both farcical and deeply troubling, it unfolds with the kind of breathless, minute-by-minute immediacy that only eyewitness reportage can bring, and offers an important perspective on the role the media inevitably plays in contemporary revolution. The fact that all but one of Venezuela's television stations are privately owned — and not by Chavez's supporters — meant that the coup that was beamed into Venezuelan homes in April 2002, was hardly the one that actually occurred.

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: In an incredibly fortuitous instance of being in the right place at the right time, filmmakers Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain traveled to Caracas in the fall of 2001 to make a film about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Six years after his failed "Boli… (more)
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