Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Inside the Revolution: A Journey into the Heart of Venezuela

This review was first published in Irish Left Review here.

Inside the Revolution: A Journey into the Heart of Venezuela (Alborada Films, 2009) narrates Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution through Venezuelans living in the barrios of Caracas, effectively demonstrating the consciousness of revolution at grassroots level, while exploring and exposing mainstream media manipulation.

Drawing on historical archives, interviews with people from the barrios and expert opinions about Chavez’s governance and policies, the documentary presents a reality from Venezuela which is either concealed or purposely ignored by Western media. The attempt by Western media to isolate Venezuelans from the political scene negates the social consciousness of the people - an acquisition which, through participation in the revolution, has the potential to become irreversible, thus imparting a sense of inclusion and a resolution to challenge imperialism within the country and internationally.

The documentary explicitly shows the displaced narration of international commentary on Venezuela. Shifting from supposedly unbiased to promoting right wing opposition views from Venezuela, mainstream media has intentionally shifted the dynamics of the Bolivarian revolution from the people to the president; a view which is negated throughout the documentary. Chavez’s supporters are imbued with both ideology and commitment - an unconditional statement which affirms the people’s participation in socialism.

“Chavez always gave us what we lacked - we have a humane President.” Such a statement illuminates the contrast between Chavez’s supporters and media coverage in Venezuela, which inclines towards distortion - glorification versus demonization. The ‘enemy of democracy’, according to the right wing faction and the imperialists, is likened to fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, struggling to create an image of a dictator alienated from his own people. In this crude propaganda Chavez is portrayed as a solitary leader. ‘The people’ are fragmented and magnified according to imperialist interests; therefore the opposition is given a vociferous front in order to obliterate grassroots’ support for Chavez.

Director Pablo Navarrete moves beyond these stereotypes to document a revolution embraced by the people. And, as portrayed in the documentary, Venezuelans supporting Chavez have no qualms about voicing their concerns over crime and corruption charges, which have proven to be a challenge for the government. The focus on grassroots’ support for Chavez, as well as their determination to participate in the revolution, give a deeper insight into Venezuela’s recent history and brutal state repression prior to Chavez.

While socialism was swiftly undergoing obliteration in the West, the social conditions in Venezuela necessitated a radical shift to combat right wing policies. In 1989, a rise in the price of fuel drove passengers travelling on a bus to revolt, when the bus driver shoved a woman who refused to pay the extra charge on fares. The Caracazo uprising was met with violence on behalf of the government, with thousands ending up murdered by gunfire from security forces in Caracas.

Three year later, in 1992, Chavez orchestrated an unsuccessful coup against the Perez government. Addressing the nation upon his arrest, Chavez became a household name thanks to a short broadcast advising the people that ” ‘por ahora’ (for now), the objectives we set ourselves have not been achieved in the capital city. That is to say, here in Caracas, we did not manage to take power. You did very well over there but now it is time to prevent further bloodshed. It is now time to reflect. New opportunities will arise. This country must, once and for all, head towards a better future.” Por ahora became a slogan for Chavez’s supporters. In 1998 Chavez was elected president of Venezuela, bringing an end to decades of violence.

The short lived, US aided, April 11, 2002 military coup against Chavez was drenched in media manipulation. Right wing media were transformed into political parties, providing repetitive broadcasts of anti-Chavez propaganda, demanding Chavez’s resignation, calling upon opposition supporters to march to Miraflores and reporting deaths during clashes between Chavez supporters and the opposition before their occurrence. Whilst the Church in Venezuela blessed the coup and the constitution was abolished, Chavez’s supporters took to the streets, clamouring for his return and defending their rights. In less than 48 hours, Chavez was reinstated in his role as president.

The documentary demonstrates the manner in which social justice in Venezuela has transcended Chavez’s political rhetoric, becoming ingrained in people’s consciousness. Participation in communal councils brought social actors together, establishing a form of governance over community functions which still battles vestiges of imperialism, clientelism and corruption. On a socio-cultural level, the hip hop scene in Venezuela has flourished, becoming a means of expression against bureaucracy and corruption. A striking scene in the documentary is hip hop group Area 23 rapping against government inconsistencies in Chavez’s presence during a television programme.

Venezuela has also emerged as a world leader in combating US imperialism, constantly denouncing the War on Terror and confronting global capitalism. Navarrete provides a lucid contrast between imperialist and socialist philosophy on freedom and democracy. A clip of Chavez holding up a newspaper depicting civilian victims of the War on Terror stating “Seek out the terrorists, but not like this,” highlights the social consciousness of a nation which has applied democracy without resorting to indiscriminate bloodshed.

Inside the Revolution: A Journey into the Heart of Venezuela defines an alternative narration which puts grassroots support for the Bolivarian Revolution back into the scene; people, ideology and activism abolishing the imposition of leadership cult - a testimony of imparting and consolidating revolution within the people.

For further information about Inside the Revolution: A Journey into the Heart of Venezuela, visit http://www.alborada.net/itr.film News about Alborada Films’ forthcoming documentary, Hip Hop Revolucion may be accessed at http://www.alborada.net/hhr.film

No comments: