Top positive review
52 people found this helpful
'What right do they have?...'
on 16 March 2008
Since watching John Pilger's first DVD collection, I have been eagerly waiting for this cinema documentary, The War On Democracy, to be released on DVD as well. I have just finished watching it several times, and while this film is not without its weak points, I can honestly say the wait has been worth it.
I got my money's worth during Pilger's confrontation with a former CIA chief, whose arrogance concerning the loss of innocent lives in Latin America is shocking, no matter how many times you watch it. When was the last time you saw a journalist (any journalist!) confront the CIA face-to face and demand to know: 'What right do you have to overthrow other countries' governments?'. Pilger does exactly that in this movie, and for me, this DVD paid for itself in those few moments alone.
There is stunning photography of the South American landscape in this film as well, the sheer beauty of which takes your breath away, and interviews with common people in Latin America whose courage is nothing short of inspiring. In one emotional scene, a priest in Bolivia breaks down and cries on camera as he remembers the government's massacre of innocent people. In another segment, we hear the horrific testimony of an American nun who was abducted and tortured in Guatemala in the late 1980s -- torture that she says was overseen by a fellow United States citizen. These are stories of common people that must be told, and yet the mainstream media companies whose so-called 'news' we watch, read and listen to every day continue to treat such people as invisible or as untouchables. Again, Pilger does a great public service in sharing their stories with us.
The weak points that I found in this movie concern Chile in particular. Why was there no mention in this film, for example, of the recent election of Michelle Bachelet, the first woman president of Chile? While Bachelet, a victim of torture herself under the brutal Pinochet regime, is admittedly not perfect, she surely represents a great leap forward from the dark days of 'the repression'. Yet she is not even mentioned in this film.
Also, Pilger makes one glaring mistake in this film (and on his website, which I checked) in reporting that the great Chilean balladeer Victor Jara was tortured and executed in the open-air National Stadium of Chile, which Pilger walks us through in this movie. Victor Jara, rather, saw his last days in Estadio Chile (Chile Stadium) a much smaller, indoor facility located in downtown Santiago, Chile. Thanks to efforts by Joan Jara, Victor's British widow, the name of the stadium where Victor was tortured and killed by Pinochet's thugs in 1973 is officially known today as Victor Jara Stadium. It was a bit disappointing to see that Pilger, who is usually quite accurate in his reporting, had not double-checked his facts on this point.
However, all things said, these weaknesses do not detract from what is overall a very powerful, very emotionally moving documentary. Pilger is correct in noting the trend of Latin American countries in rising up to face 'the empire' (as Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez refers to the U.S. in this film). Indeed, as we speak, more South American countries are rising up and will continue to rise up. If we are to understand more clearly how global imperial history is changing right before our eyes, we need more documentary films like this one -- and more brave journalists like John Pilger to help tell us the truth.