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WAR ON DEMOCRACY, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Australian journalist John Pilger anchors this documentary on a visit to Venezuela and an interview with its president, Hugo Chavez, the only leader of an oil-producing nation who has used its resources democratically, says Pilger, for the education and health of its people. Despite being toppled from his presidency in 2002 by rich and powerful interests backed by the US, he was brought back to power by the sheer weight of Venezuelan people power. Using this as a jumping off point, Pilger criss-crosses South America and presents a picture that has the US meddling in the affairs of its countries, often in total denial of democratic processes and ideals.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I would have been impressed if John Pilger had made this film entirely in black and white, as a wry dig at his own journalistic style. He didn't, so there is lots of colour as he presents the argument against US interventionist policies stapled to the issues of poverty and oppression in most of South America. The film is like a 90 minute doco you might see on a cable station, with Pilger in black shirt (unfortunate choice for hosting a film in which Fascists are pilloried) and smart slacks confronting former CIA heavies about US foreign policy, dirty tricks and imperial attitudes.

His interview with President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela elicits some details about the President's very humble origins but is most notable for the question Pilger can't get answered. He asks why it is that there is so much poverty in Venezuela when it supplies 15% of the US oil needs? Chavez doesn't have an answer, opting instead for a piece of political speak about not wanting to be rich but to have dignity.

There is a fiery confrontation with an ex CIA bureau chief from South America who plays right into Pilger's hands with his aggressive US imperialistic stance, and lots of scenes that show how the poor continue to be poor. Some of the material doesn't really make sense (eg why did Bolivia sell its assets 'for a pittance' if it was intended to be an act of greed by the ruling junta?) and some questions are left without answers (eg what exactly do the Venezuelan middle class hate about Chavez?).

Yet with all its flaws and its righteous tone (thanks to Pilger's pervasive narration and on-camera presence), the film tackles the Achilles Heel of American politics: its historically abysmal foreign policy failures. It does what Pilger set out to do, even if he is preaching to the converted. The sad conclusion, though, is that it's not just America that behaves badly; it's a human trait to swagger with power, to oppress the weak and to pillage other cultures. The Romans, the Soviets, the Portuguese, the Spanish, the French, the British and the Dutch have all done it. As have authoritarian Governments of all political hues, and none of it is acceptable. If Pilger's film becomes a trigger for more people power movements (eg in Africa) he will have certainly made a difference.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

WAR ON DEMOCRACY, THE (M)
(UK/Aust, 2007)

CAST: Documentary featuring John Pilger, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela

PRODUCER: Christopher Martin, Wayne Young

DIRECTOR: John Pilger, Christopher Martin

SCRIPT: John Pilger

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Preston Clothier

EDITOR: Joe Frost

MUSIC: Jesper Mattsson, Makoto Sakamoto

RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 27, 2007







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