The War on Democracy

Film

Documentaries

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Jun 12 2007

John Pilger, the celebrated veteran film-maker and human-rights campaigner, introduced the press screening of his first documentary made for the cinema as ‘possibly the most optimistic film’ he’s ever made and one which represents ‘the voices of the ordinary people’. Written and co-directed with Christopher Martin, it’s a dynamic and emotionally effective diatribe against global capitalism’s role in undermining popular second or third-world democracies in general and those of Latin America in particular.

The more interesting first half introduces most of the film’s newly recorded interview material, conducted in Bolivia, Chile and Venezuela and including a fortuitously timed and approving extended chat with its embattled president Hugo Chavez.

We hear the opinions of some ordinary Venezualans but the most impressive footage is that which captures, at the time of the attempted coup against Chavez, the charged descent in defence of their leader from the capital’s poor hilltop barrios by his newly enfranchised supporters. Judging by the rousing rock accompaniment, this uprising is clearly the source of Pilger’s optimism.

The director returns to that same event in the second, more problematic half, which uses more archive footage and newsreel to widen his argument to include all the Central and South American countries that constitute the so-called ‘backyard’ of the US. It’s in this section that Pilger aims his quiver of poisoned arrows more directly at the US and its policy of using secretly funded surrogates, covert actions, secret diplomacy, disinformation and subversive propaganda – not to mention alleged torture and murder – in pursuit of its ‘so-called self-interest’.

If this development into a more overtly political work is problematic, it’s not because Pilger is not entitled to his views. Rather, it’s that his very ability to expose hidden agendas and the mechanics of propaganda in others inevitably invites the viewer to cast a sterner eye on his own clever use of editing, montage, soundtrack, context and evidence. For instance, in an initially revelatory passage, where Pilger seeks to show the falseness of putative footage of Chavez supporters shooting indiscriminately into a crowd from a bridge – used by the opposition to justify his arrest following its broadcast by the private Venezuelan TV station whose licence Chavez has recently withdrawn – he relies on counter-footage that seems, in itself, far from conclusive. On a more trivial level, Pilger’s suggestive mugging for the camera when interviewing businessmen, opposition politicians or CIA representatives can be tiresome and counter-productive, unsympathetic, obtuse or mendacious as they might be. That said, the passion and integrity of the polemic is never in doubt; many of the interviews – notably with a Pinochet survivor – are very moving, and Pilger’s assertions about the true nature of organisations such as the National Endowment for Democracy – a US front for channelling deniable funding – are urgent and lucid.
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Release details

UK release:

Fri Jun 15, 2007

Duration:

96 mins

Cast and crew

Director:

John Pilger, Christopher Martin

With:

John Pilger

Producer:

Christopher Martin

Music:

Jesper Mattsson, Makoto Sakamoto

Cinematography:

Preston Clothier

Editor:

Joe Frost

Users say

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Average User Rating

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Rob

Essential viewing for all wanting to make sense of what has historically driven US foreign policy and to understand the country's role and impact in the world. At times a disturbing film, let us hope that John Pilgers optimism for a new dawn for democracy is well-founded.

Rob

Essential viewing for all wanting to make sense of what has historically driven US foreign policy and to understand the country's role and impact in the world. At times a disturbing film, let us hope that John Pilgers optimism for a new dawn for democracy is well-founded.

Ivan Petrovsky

Here is a man who is actually behaving like a true Christian by defending the poor and marginalized in society by documenting some of the nefarious crimes of our western governments - which ironically purport to be Christian in nature. As a Christian myself, I wish that my fellow brothers and sisters would spend more of their time emulating Mr Pilger rather than ranting and raving and judging everyone who disagrees with them, and then crowning this peculiar behaviour by noisily voting for Evil and moronic men - all under the guise of (some alien form of) Christianity. Mr Pilger has won many awards for his journalism - he deserves them - we need more people in journalism to concern themselves with such issues and to produce such quality products. If only this documentary could go on general release in the U.S. and disabuse the majority of its misguided sense of self.

Ivan Petrovsky

Here is a man who is actually behaving like a true Christian by defending the poor and marginalized in society by documenting some of the nefarious crimes of our western governments - which ironically purport to be Christian in nature. As a Christian myself, I wish that my fellow brothers and sisters would spend more of their time emulating Mr Pilger rather than ranting and raving and judging everyone who disagrees with them, and then crowning this peculiar behaviour by noisily voting for Evil and moronic men - all under the guise of (some alien form of) Christianity. Mr Pilger has won many awards for his journalism - he deserves them - we need more people in journalism to concern themselves with such issues and to produce such quality products. If only this documentary could go on general release in the U.S. and disabuse the majority of its misguided sense of self.