A while back I mentioned that I could open my page to letters from readers detailing an interesting experience. Today for the first time I have the pleasure to publish an excellent, and very important, letter. May there be more of them. Thanks Bruni!
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I received an invitation from a friend to go see the film “The Revolution will not be televised”. I have heard from both sides about the film and decided that I would go. I had read about the April 11 2002 events in Francisco Toro’s essay and interview. Also, I had read in El Gusano de Luz an analysis of the film that found 20 major inconsistencies. I actually studied each of the points and took notes to be able to compare with what I was going to watch in the film.
The show was taking place in a small bar downtown and it was organized by a group concerned with globalization issues. When I got in, the bar was full of very young people all very eager to watch the film and very sympathetic to the Bolivarian cause.
The film was amazing. The music, the songs’ words, the pictures, the way they follow Chavez in his everyday endeavors and the story are very well treated. If I had not studied the flaws before watching it, I think that I would have been totally convinced about the veracity of the whole story. As the film advances, one is taken more and more by the intensity of Chavez personality and by the awful maneuvers of the opposition leaders, journalists and oligarchic housewives. When Chavez is forced to leave Miraflores, many people in the audience expressed their outrage and when Carmona dissolves the powers and all the people present in Miraflores cheer; I must confess that I was not very proud of what I was watching. I laughed with the audience when the ministers come back to Miraflores and do not know how to get organized in that unusual situation. Finally, as Francisco said in his interview, when Chavez comes back, everybody feels Chavista, me included. We all applauded the end of the film.
In the middle of the applauses, the organizer asked if there were any Venezuelans present. I raised my hand and asked if I could address the audience. I was cheerfully given a microphone and asked to step up to the center of the stage. I started saying that I was a dissident and that I was very glad to live in this country because I liked freedom and democracy and I was very worried with what was happening in Venezuela. I pointed out that the film had many bias. First, it chose to caricaturize the situation by portraying everybody in the opposition as white and blond and every Chavez supporter as brown or black. I told them that in Venezuela we were all “café au lait” and we lived without racial stereotypes until Chavez created them with his divisive fashion and that the film insisted on emphasizing them. They had just to look at me, I said, with my very curly black hair (whereas one of the Bolivarian ladies was actually blonde, but that I did not say). Next, I pointed out specific points that were not shown in the picture. For instance, the picture does not show that there were close to a million people in the April 11 march. Without that information, the viewers could not grasp the importance of the conflict. It does not say that Chavez had knowledge of the march rerouting and did nothing to avoid it. Finally, I said, it did not say a word about the infamous “cadena” in which the president monopolized the communication waves to keep talking about utilitarian vehicles while people outside his Palace were being killed.
At that point, the Bolivarians that had organized the event started shouting at me that that was not true, that until when I was going to make false statements. They were enraged. I was taken aback despite that I knew of the reputation of the Bolivarian circles. I calmly asked them to let me finish, mentioned the essay in Caracas Chronicles and El Gusano de Luz and quickly regained my seat without losing my temper.
Two members of the Bolivarian group were then given the chance to talk. They did not addressed my comments, but rather explained how the poor were not taken into account in Venezuela until Chavez got into power and made emphasis on the missions and on Chavez fight against poverty. They also invited the audience to go to Venezuela and to know more about their group. They were not fluent in French but I actually thought that they were quite charming trying to get their message across with smiles. I was again surprised these could be the same people shouting at me minutes before.
After they talked, I asked the organizer for a chance to reply, I wanted to provide the latest poverty figures, but the organizer said they had to close the event. I later mentioned to him that I thought that he had not been fair since he let two people talk from Chavez side, while I was just one person. He said that I had a little bit more time (true) and that I could communicate better (a very funny and clever excuse, I must say!).
Finally, when the evening was declared to be over, the Bolivarians shouted: Viva Chavez! Viva la Revolucion! But the audience was silent. They had lost their momentum and they were not happy. They carefully avoided exchanging any word or eye contact with me.
When I was about to leave, a young woman whispered me that she was very thankful that I had given the other side of the story and that she knew about it because she had spent eight months in Caracas. Then, a young man approached me, and almost whispering told me that he was Iranian and that he knew what a totalitarian regime was. He also thanked me for my address.
I could not sleep that night. The evening events, the film and Francisco Toro’s essay images were playing in my mind. I was recalling the twenty lies pointed in the film. But, first of all, I was thinking how Venezuelans have changed. In any other circumstances that I could think of, a group of Venezuelans in a foreign site would have engaged a conversation in Spanish with me, aware that we were part of the same culture and shared many experiences. Instead they were shouting at me and calling me a liar. It was my first experience with a Bolivarian group and it was also the first time in my life that I was the object of two feelings previously unknown to me: antagonism and hatred. I guess those will be Chavez’s legacies.