The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

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The Revolution Will Not Be Televised Review


Sometimes history happens and nobody knows about it, until much later, if ever. And then there are times when a camera crew is right there to record everything as it unfolds. This was the situation on April 11, 2002, when an Irish film crew that had been shadowing Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was able to film first-hand the dramatic coup that (briefly) unseated him and installed an influential businessman, Pedro Carmona, as president. It cannot be questioned that the resulting footage which comprises The Revolution Will Not Be Televised provides quite a few thrills and jolts, but while there is a story to be told about the 2002 coup, this is definitely not the documentary to tell it.

Filmmakers Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain quickly sketch out the situation as it was in Venezuela in early 2002, using broad, slashing strokes. Chavez, an undeniably charismatic guy, is presented as a man of the people, always speaking before rapturous crowds. A former paratrooper, Chavez led an army coup of his own back in 1992, which resulted in 18 dead and put him in jail for two years. Elected in 1998 on a platform of redistributing the country's vast wealth to the people (Venezuela is one of the largest oil producers in the world), Chavez quickly alienated the country's ruling class, which controlled both the media and the oil industry - an obviously fearsome combination.

Irked by Chavez's rhetoric, the elites decided to take him out of power - though, in a frustrating omission, the film doesn't get into much detail about what exactly Chavez was always fulminating against, except for some utterances about globalization and "neo-liberalism." The privately owned media channels drew upon the elite's anger and proclaimed a massive protest against Chavez on April 10, 2002. Though the film shows the glaring differences between Chavez's supporters (generally poor and dark-skinned) and those of his enemies (wealthier-seeming and white, for the most part), they don't explain how the opposition was able to pull together the thousands of protesters who showed up that day (elites being, by their nature, not especially numerous). It turns out that the opposition had the support of the country's trade unions and that Venezuela was at the time of the coup engulfed in huge, crippling strikes; again, these are details that would have been helpful for the film to include.

The events that unfolded on April 10 are undeniably dramatic. Chavez's supporters thronged by the thousands near the presidential palace, while the opposition mob approached, with the army struggling to keep the two groups separate. Shots ring out, the cameras flutter, Chavez's supporters drop with bullets to the head from snipers. But this is an armed crowd (one out of four Venezuelans owns a firearm) and they return fire. The media manipulates the televised footage to make it seem that Chavez's supporters fired on the opposition and the stage is set for the army to take over. Tanks surround the palace and Chavez, in order to avoid a bloodbath, allows himself to be secreted away by the opposition, which names Carmona the new president and dissolves the National Assembly and Supreme Court. The stage is then set for the surge in popular outrage that would sweep Chavez back into power in a matter of days, without further bloodshed.

At 74 admittedly entertaining minutes, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised barely scratches the surface of its subject. Potentially fascinating subjects like the likelihood of U.S. support (or at least tacit approval) for the opposition coup is barely touched upon, the film content to use a few negative remarks about Chavez made by Colin Powell as evidence. And by painting Chavez as a Bolivarian saint, when he's really more of a demagogue (benevolent, true, but still more of a rockstar than a politician), the filmmakers end up more as propagandists then documentarians.

Aka Chavez: Inside the Coup.

The revolution will not be in focus.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 74 mins

In Theaters: Friday 12th September 2003

Distributed by: Vitagraph Films

Production compaines: RTÉ, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Irish Film Board, Power Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Fresh: 47 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 8.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Kim Bartley, Donnacha O'Briain

Producer: David Power

Starring: Hugo Chávez as himself

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