Amnesty forced to withdraw Chavez Documentary amid threats of violence
arts and media |
Monday November 24, 2003 17:12 by D
Amnesty international Vancouver have been forced to withdraw the documentary on Hugo Chavez amid threats of violence
Amnesty Forced to Withdraw Chavez Documentary from Canadian Screening amid Threats of Violence.
Last year two Irish filmmakers were eye witnesses to one of the most extraordinary events in recent Central American history. Donnacha O’Brin and Kim Bartley had travelled to Venezuela to film an intimate portrait of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. They found themselves in the middle of a coup staged by elements in the military, powerful forces in the privately owned oil companies and the privately owned media.
Venezuela is the US’s fourth largest supplier of oil, and the largest outside the Middle East, but despite this is an impoverished nation, with a massive gulf between rich and poor. Chavez, a former military officer, is a populist President and was elected with a mandate to nationalize Venezuela’s oil. This has enraged the US government and the large conglomerates who own both the oil and the entirety of the private media in Venezuela.
Donnacha and Kim were inside the presidential place as the coup unfolded in April 2002, and they captured extraordinary scenes during and after the coup. They witnessed how the private TV stations actively aided and supported this military coup, and the way in which events were manipulated and twisted on air. Most importantly the two filmmakers captured the scenes as millions of ordinary citizens in Caracas rose up within days and restored the elected president, Hugo Chavez, to power.
The resulting Film “The Revolution will not be televised” has been shown around the world on television and at festivals. It has won numerous awards http://www.chavezthefilm.com/html/film/awards.htm
including the prestigious, Banff and Greisens awards.
However the documentary has been subjected to fierce criticism. Wolfgang Chalk, A Venezuelan TV Producer and Engineer, has spearhead a campaign backed by Venezuelan private television producers, Generals and the Caracas Chief of Police. They’ve campaigned on the internet with a petition calling for the film to be banned. They have harrassed film festivals and TV stations who have planned on showing the film, calling on them to withdraw the film. Judges from one important documentary award have told of receiving phone calls demanding they don’t choose this film in the days before votes were cast.
This group seized on a decision by Amnesty International in Vancouver to withdraw the film from it’s forthcoming Human Rights Festival. Schalk’s, curiously well organised pressure group took this as “proof” of their claims that the documentary was “lying” and began another round of calls to festivals and TV stations on the strength of the withdrawal.
However Amnesty’s reasons for the withdrawal have nothing to do with Schalk’s harassment and in their own statement they say: “In the final two weeks of October, we received from individuals and groups calls for the cancellation of the screening of the film. During this time we were also contacted by the chair and director of the Venezuelan section who requested us not to show the film. AI Venezuela believed the screening of the film created the perception of an association between Amnesty International and the views portrayed in the film. At the time of the showing, in the highly polarized climate in Venezuela, the perception of association created a security risk for AI Venezuela staff and members, described by the Director as “a real threat against our security and safety.”
Amnesty’s reasons for withdrawal of the documentary had nothing to do with the content of the film but rather to do with the very real threat of violence against members of Amnesty International Venezuela, if they went ahead with the screening. Their reasons for removal are being misrepresented by a group of people who wish to suppress “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”.
The film is currently on a limited US cinema release, with distributors under pressure from powerful lobby groups demanding it’s withdrawal.
Donnacha and Kim are angry about this stating: “It would seem that whoever is behind the campaign was determined at all costs to get AI to act in this way, and then to “spin” the story to suit their own purposes.” These two filmmakers dedicated their prize at the recent Irish ESB media awards to “media activists everywhere and the Indymedia Ireland Collective”.
Read the statement from the filmmakers and the full text of the Amnesty
Further Background on Venezuela and the Film
Article on the withdrawal of the film from the Vancouver film festival
in the UK Guardian
Detailed accounts of the Coup, the role of the Private Media and the Aftermath from NarcoNews: