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The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (documentary)

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (a.k.a. Chavez: Inside the Coup) is a 2002 documentary about the April 2002 Venezuelan coup attempt which briefly deposed Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. A television crew from Ireland's national broadcaster, RTÉ happened to be recording a documentary about Chávez during the events of April 11, 2002. Shifting focus, they followed the events as they occurred. During their filming, the crew recorded images of the events that they say contradict explanations given by Chávez's opposition, the private media, the US State Department, and then White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. The documentary says that the coup was the result of a conspiracy between various old guard and anti-Chávez factions within Venezuela and the United States.


The portrayal of Hugo Chávez in the documentary has been described as that of a "colourful unpredictable folk hero", beloved by Venezuela's working classes and opposed to "a power structure that would see him deposed". The documentary portrays Chávez's first years as president before the coup and the support the government had among the working class and the poor, referencing educational plans, distribution of the oil revenue and grassroots democracy and participation of people previously excluded from politics as a key to this.

It then explains the privately owned television channels, business and upper class opposition, who accuse Chávez of being an insane communist dictator. The documentary then moves to show how the media promoted demonstrations against Chávez and worked together with some military and big businessmen opposition to create an anti-Chávez climate leading to the day of the coup.

On 11 April2002, the opposition finally organized a big demonstration that went to Miraflores presidential palace to demand Chávez's resignation. But an also huge crowd of Chavistas was waiting at Miraflores to support the president.

The film shows Chávez's supporters being shot down by snipers, and then some controversial footage of Chavistas shooting back, which the private media channels then used to say the Chávez's supporters shot at the unarmed anti-Chávez crowd, when they were actually shooting towards an empty street with armoured vans from where the shots against them were coming.

It then goes on to show an interview with a journalist claiming that he resigned from one of the privately owned TV channels after being forbidden to talk about any pro-Chávez demonstrarions taking place at the time.

Filmmakers Kim Bartley and Donacha O'Briain were inside the presidential palace on 11 April2002 when Chávez was deposed and two days later when he returned to power, recording "what was probably history's shortest-lived coup d'état."

The pivotal role of the media before and during the coup is highlighted throughout its 75 minutes, with emphasis in the importance that both Chávez government and the opposition who executed the coup gave to gaining control over channel 8, the only TV Channel owned by the state, shut down the day of the coup and recovered afterwards to communicate the news that the rest of the channels were not communicating, such as the fact that Chávez had not resigned but was actually being held as a prisoner and the fact that what was happening was not a democratical transition but actually a coup d'etat.

Reception of the film

The film won twelve awards at film festivals and was nominated for another four. Among those prizes were the Silver Hugo award for the Best Documentary in the Chicago International Film Festival (2003), the Banff Rockie Award as Best Information & Current Affairs Program at the Banff Television Festival (2003) and the International Documentary Association's IDA Award (2003).

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised has been widely debated among both supporters and critics of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Frank Scheck, for The Hollywood Reporter, says about The Revolution will not be televised, a.k.a Chávez: Inside the Coup:

While the filmmakers were necessarily limited to filming what was in their immediate orbit, their close proximity to the events at hand results in often gripping footage, and the finished product resembles a taut if at times confusing and inadvertently comic political thriller. One might have hoped for a little more in the way of analysis and historical context, but on the other hand, with its mere 74-minute running time, the film earns points for brevity and succinctness.

Nick Fraser, Storyville Series Editor for BBC - UK, on his Commissioner's Comment over The Revolution Will Not Be Televised said:

J. Hoberman, for The Village Voice says:

In addition to reporting a scoop, Bartley and O'Briain do an excellent job in deconstructing the Venezuelan TV news footage of blood, chaos, and rival crowds. As befits its title, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is nearly a textbook on media manipulation.

Writing for The New York Times, Stephen Holden comments:

More than a scary close-up look at the raw mechanics of a power grab, the film is also a cautionary examination of the use of television to deceive and manipulate the public.

The film has been severely criticized by opponents of Hugo Chávez, who say that it omits or misrepresents important events, such as a televised announcement of Chávez's resignation by General-in-Chief, Lucas Rincón, resulting in a distorted version of the events as a coup. Chávez says that he never resigned and that he refused to sign the resignation letter that the coup plotters handed him.

In 2003 Venezuelan TV producers and engineers Thaelman Urgelles and Wolfgang Schalk, said that The Revolution Will Not Be Televised was unethical and a work of propaganda. They say that the images showing the Baralt Avenue without any people and the Venevisión video showing the shooters of Puente Llaguno were filmed at different times, according to their own analysis of the shadows of the buildings. They also point out that the film ignores or misrepresents other important details of the events.

Due to opposition pressure, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised was withdrawn from an Amnesty International film festival in Vancouver in November 2003. The decision to withdraw the film was taken because of threats to the physical safety of Amnesty staff in Caracas if the film was shown in the festival and not because of the film's quality or politics. Bartley and O'Briain stated that "unfortunately, this perfectly legitimate decision by AI to protect the safety of their workers has been distorted by some in order to claim that AI dropped our documentary because of its content."

Another documentary, Puente Llaguno: Claves de una Masacre by Ángel Palacios, argues that "anti-Chávez opposition alliance manipulated coverage -- Venezuela's private media are overwhelmingly opposed to the left-leaning president -- to make it look like the government used gunmen to shoot and kill opposition demonstrators on Apr. 11, 2002 at Puente Llaguno in Caracas", corroborating the arguments shown in The Revolution will not be Televised.

Every year, the IDFA, International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam, gives an acclaimed filmmaker the chance to screen his or her personal Top 10 favorite films. In 2007, Iranian filmmaker Maziar Bahari selected The Revolution will not be Televised for his top ten classics from the history of documentary.

A Spanish language documentary, Venezuela Bolivariana: People and Struggle of the Fourth World War, covers much of the same subject and uses some footage from The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.


Introductory song: La Soga by Ali Primera.


See also

External links


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