Saturday, October 13, 2007

Movie Review: The War on Democracy

The War on Democracy is an incisive documentary on the US’s involvement in the politics of Latin America over the last 50 years. Despite Washington’s rhetoric about fighting to preserve democracy in the world, its actions in its own ’backyard’ show that it is often only interested in true democracy when it serves its own interests. John Pilger, an award-winning journalist, tells the story of a number of Central and South American countries who tried to bring democracy to their people but failed because of the atrocities committed by dictators backed by America.

The largest part of the documentary tells the story of the rise of Hugo Chavez, the democratically elected president of Venezuela. Chavez has revolutionised Venezuela bringing a form of democracy to the people that we have pretty much forgotten about in the West. But Chavez has not been popular with the middle and upper classes of Venezuela who ride on the back of capitalism that marginalises the poor of the country. Chavez has begun to fill the gap between rich and poor with his policies and Pilger tells the dramatic story of an attempted but failed coup during which US media were manipulated into showing footage that perpetuated a distorted view of actual events.

The second part of the documentary surveys various nasty tricks the US has perpetrated in various countries with some stunning interview footage of ex-CIA operatives who proudly boast about their countries right to do anything it wants, anytime it wants, wherever it wants, if it serves its own interests.

The War on Democracy is not, however, without its faults. It is clearly biased in and the strength of the film is undermined by the few times Pilger appears on screen "preaching" to his audience. Additionally, despite the fact that Chavez explains his passion to bring true democracy to Venezuela, many despots in the past have started out preaching freedom for the oppressed. Only time will tell whether Chavez continues to run a government by the people for the people. In a telling moment when Pilger asks about the high number of people still living in poverty, he sidesteps the question saying that the real issue is to live with dignity. It doesn’t quite ring true. Apparently, too, Chavez is gaining significant control of the country’s institutions (see Negative Review below).

The War on Democracy, however, is a must see documentary, particularly in the current political context of the "war on terror" and the "modern Vietnam" of Iraq. Our politicians who speak so eloquently about democracy may have a democracy in mind that the rest of us don’t recognise.

My Rating: **** (out of 5)

Positive Review
’A brilliantly-researched and sometimes shocking insight into the democratic position of those countries whose dealings with America are more along the lines of slave than political poodle.’ - Kat Brown/Empire

Negative Review
’Pilger, typically, is not content to let the film do its own talking. He appears regularly, in cream lightweight suit and complementary tan, to deliver schoolmasterly dissertations on the sins perpetrated by self-serving Washington and its craven acolytes.’ - Sandra Hall/Sydney Morning Herald


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