The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

After orchestrating a successful military coup to oust Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on April 11, 2002, Pedro Carmona, a member of the moneyed Old Guard, inaugurated his 48-hour presidency by calling on the international community to accept the "profoundly democratic process" that installed him in office. Considering what had just transpired, this audacious statement wins the biggest laugh in The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain's stunning you-are-there account of a grand swindle in the making. Were the coup not such an outrageous and chilling affront to democracy, their documentary would be a gut-busting comedy along the lines of Woody Allen's Bananas, rife with wacky cartoon villains and tactics so crude that Carmona might as well have infiltrated the palace in a Groucho Marx disguise. All that's missing is a kazoo score by Marvin Hamlisch. Yet as the events unfold before Bartley and O'Briain's ringside cameras, the lowbrow humor tends to curdle into outrage, as the country's powerful elite uses the media to bamboozle the people and overthrow a democratically elected president. On hand to shoot a profile on Chavez, a colorful and polarizing resistance figure with popular support among the disenfranchised, Bartley and O'Briain were inside the palace for the entire affair, anxiously watching history sweep through its corridors. Though it's hard to fully trust Revolution's fawning treatment of Chavez, the film quickly evolves into a gripping piece of agit-prop once the coup's awful machinations are set into motion. Seeking to redistribute wealth in the world's fourth largest oil-producing nation, where roughly 80 percent of the population nonetheless lives in poverty, Chavez was on the verge of dismantling the state-owned oil company, which had been pilfered by the ruling class. Amid a general strike, Carmona and his cronies (with a possible assist from the CIA) pulled off the coup by creating a chaotic scene pitting pro- and anti-Chavez demonstrators against each other, and turning military leaders against him. More diabolical still, they roped their own privately owned television stations into participating in a conspiracy of lies, which were later forwarded by the Bush Administration and American media outlets like CNN. In the film's most shocking moment, one camera angle used to show Chavez supporters supposedly firing on their adversaries from a bridge would have told an altogether different story had it panned over to the empty street below. Bartley and O'Briain never quite find a smoking gun in connecting the failed coup to the U.S., but the assertion isn't much of a stretch, considering Chavez's ties to Fidel Castro and the fact that he, in the State Department's words, "does not always have U.S. interests at heart." A forceful, exhilarating lesson in free-market tyranny, Revolution is enough to make viewers feel grateful about living in a country where the corporate-controlled media don't acquiesce to the moneyed elite. Oh, wait...

Filed Under: Film

More Movie Review