The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

dir. Bartley & O'Briain

Opens Fri Jan 23

Cinema 21

Even if you're well versed in the events that occurred in Venezuela on April 12-13, 2002--the two-day failed coup d'etat against democratically elected President Hugo Chavez Frias--nothing will prepare you for the footage in The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. The Irish filmmakers, Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain, were allowed intimate access to the presidential palace before, during, and after the coup, yielding chilling footage, and a possibly unprecedented cinematic look into the political machinations of overthrow.

The film begins with Chavez charismatic acceptance speech in front of millions of cheering Venezuelans. Chavez, outspoken against both the Iraq War and globalization, was elected by a landslide in 1998, largely based on his promise to redistribute Venezuela's considerable oil wealth back to the people. Detractors (mostly organized by the opposition party, a minority of Venezuelans who'd profited from the country's rich oil deposits) point out in the film this was a socialistic move, congruous with Chavez's friend, the dictator Fidel Castro. (They were right. Let us be reminded that when Castro socialized his country's oil, the U.S. started cooking up un poco problema called Bay of Pigs.)

Immediately, the footage turns to the people as they organize, march, or protest in the streets, both for and against the deeply controversial president. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the class disparity on either side is visible. This subtle aspect of the footage speaks volumes about the coup to come. But from the beginning, it's clear the drama will be waged on television--a war between the state-run station where Chavez broadcasts his speeches, vs. the corporate-run media, and their immediate firestorm against his policies.

There are so many overwhelming images in Revolution, from actual, real-time footage of a coup about to happen, to protesters being murdered by unknown snipers, to the loyal palace guards' reclamation of the presidency for Chavez, where he still sits today. (Though, as of last week, he is weathering pressure from the U.S. and other Western countries for a recall.) It's a rare, if singular, chance to watch world events as they go down--don't miss it.