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Archive for June 1st, 2021

by Joel Bocko

     The story is simple, straightforward, and the style carries the conviction of a raw immediacy difficult to fake. This is not to say that elaborate machinations and cagey deceptions were not involved in the events of April 11-14, 2002, in which the popular left-wing Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez was deposed (an occurrence all too familiar in the history of Latin America) and then restored (an occurrence not nearly familiar enough). Nor is this to ignore the sophistication of this documentary’s analysis, its exacting deconstruction of the privately-owned media’s duplicity as well as its own – consequently somewhat ambivalent – skill in shaping a narrative from a vast array of choices. The Irish filmmakers shot at a 200:1 ratio, meaning for every one minute of footage they used, three hours and nineteen minutes were discarded; struggling to tighten their focus, they hired a particularly crucial collaborator, editor Ángel Hernández Zoido, who has argued, “There are always hundreds of stories sleeping inside the material and you have to find them and wake them up.” No, what I mean by observing – and praising – the story and style of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is that the filmmakers never lose sight of the essential truths at the film’s core.

What are these essential truths? First, that the political tension in Venezuela hinges on class war, with Chávez’s support rooted in the more impoverished sectors while the opposition’s support is rooted in the more wealthy. Second, that the private media reflects its often oligarchical ownership by pushing narratives that relentlessly attack Chávez, through manipulation if necessary. Indeed, one of the film’s most significant and highly cinematic observations is that an image used to justify the coup relies on a dishonest camera angle that denies wider context: Chávez supporters supposedly firing at a crowd of opponents when in fact their defensive fire was directed at hidden snipers in an area mostly devoid of protesters. Third, that the leaders of the opposition – despite their self-righteous claims to be resisting an authoritarian outlaw – gladly operate outside of the law when the opportunity arises; as soon as they have even a flimsy grasp on power they do not turn to democratic means to claim their legitimacy. Notably, although the details of the documentary can be, and frequently have been, vehemently if unconvincingly argued with lawyerly devotion, the film’s critics tend to concede or avoid these broader, fundamental truths. They are essential not only because they make the most important facts clear but because they orient us toward the wider context and pattern.
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