[Marxism] Pilger documentary can be seen online

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Oct 2 06:34:52 MDT 2007

John Pilger's new documentary The War on Democracy made its North 
American premiere last night at the Vancouver International Film 
Festival. ITV and Pilger have made the film available in full on the 
internet, and it can be viewed at:



ZNet | Mainstream Media

The rising of Latin America - the genesis of 'The War On Democracy'

by John Pilger; John Pilger.com; September 27, 2007
More information about John Pilger’s film can be found at johnpilger.com

To view the trailer go to warondemocracy.net

(13 Jun 2007) In the 1960s, when I first went to Latin America, I 
travelled up the cone of the continent from Chile across the Altiplano 
to Peru, mostly in rickety buses and single-carriage trains. It was an 
experience my memory stored for life, especially the spectacle of the 
movement of people.

They moved through the dust of a snow-capped wilderness, along roads 
that were ribbons of red mud, and they lived in shanties that defied 
gravity. "We are invisible," said one man; another used the term 
abandonados; an indigenous woman in Bolivia unforgettably described her 
poverty as a commodity for the rich.

When I later saw Sebastiao Salgado's photographs of Latin America's 
working people, I recognised the people at the roadside, the gold miners 
and the coffee workers and the silhouettes framed in crosses in the 
cemeteries. Perhaps the idea for a cinema film began then, or when I 
reported Ronald Reagan's murderous assault on Central America; or when I 
first read the words of Victor Jara's ballads and heard Sam Cooke's 
anthem A Change Is Gonna Come.

The War On Democracy is my first film for cinema. It follows more than 
55 documentary films for television, which began with The Quiet Mutiny, 
set in Vietnam. Most of my films have told stories of people's struggles 
against rapacious power and of attempts to subvert and control our 
historical memory. It is this control, this organised forgetting, that 
has always intrigued me both as a film-maker and a journalist. Described 
by Harold Pinter as a great silence unbroken by the incessant din of the 
media age, it assures the powerful in the west that the struggle of 
whole societies against their crimes is merely "superficially recorded, 
let alone documented, let alone acknowledged... It never happened. Even 
while it was happening it never happened. It didn't matter. It was of no 

This was true of Nicaragua in the early 1980s, when a popular revolution 
began to turn back poverty and bring literacy and hope to a country long 
dismissed as a banana republic. In the United States, the Sandinista 
government was successfully portrayed as communist and a threat, and 
crushed. After all, Richard Nixon had said of all of Latin America: "No 
one gives a shit about the place." The War On Democracy is meant as an 
antidote to this.

Modern fictional cinema rarely seems to break political silences. The 
very fine Motorcycle Diaries was a generation too late. In this country, 
where Hollywood sets the liberal boundaries, the work of Ken Loach and a 
few others is an honourable exception. However, the cinema is changing 
as if by default. The documentary has returned to the big screen and is 
being embraced by the public, in the US and all over. They were still 
clapping Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 two months after it opened in 
this country. Why? The answer is uncomplicated. It was a powerful film 
that helped people make sense of news that no longer made sense. It did 
not present the usual phoney "balance" as a pretence for presenting an 
establishment consensus. It was not riddled with the cliches, platitudes 
and power assumptions that permeate "current affairs". It was realist 
cinema, as important as The Grapes of Wrath was in the 1930s, and people 
devoured it.

The War On Democracy is not the same. It comes out of a British 
commercial television tradition that is too often passed over: the 
pioneering of bold factual journalism that treated other societies not 
as post-imperial curios, as useful or expendable to "us", but 
extraordinary and important in their own terms. Granada's World in 
Action, where I began, was a prime example. It would report and film in 
ways that the BBC would not dare. These days, with misnamed "reality" 
programmes consuming much of television like a plague of cane toads, 
cinema has been handed a timely opportunity. Such are the dangers 
imposed on us all today by a rampant, neo-fascist superpower, and so 
urgent is our need for uncontaminated information that people are 
prepared to buy a cinema ticket to get it.

The War On Democracy examines the false democracy that comes with 
western corporations and financial institutions and a war waged, 
materially and as propaganda, against popular democracy. It is the story 
of the people I first saw 40 years ago; but they are no longer 
invisible; they are a mighty political movement, reclaiming noble 
concepts distorted by corporatism and they are defending the most basic 
human rights in a war being waged against all of us.

Cinema and television production are closely related, of course, but the 
differences, I have learned, are critical. Cinema allows a panorama to 
unfold, giving a sense of place that only the big screen captures. In 
The War On Democracy, the camera sweeps across the Andes in Bolivia to 
the highest and poorest city on earth, El Alto, then follows Juan 
Delfin, a priest and a taxi driver, into a cemetery where children are 
buried. That Bolivia has been asset-stripped by multinational companies, 
aided by a corrupt elite, is an epic story described by this one man and 
this spectacle. That the people of Bolivia have stood up, expelled the 
foreign consortium that took their water resources, even the water that 
fell from the sky, is understood as the camera pans across a giant mural 
that Juan Delfin painted. This is cinema, a moving mural of ordinary 
lives and triumphs.

Chris Martin and I (we made the film as a partnership) used two crews 
and two very different cinematographers, Preston Clothier and Rupert 
Binsley. They shot in high-definition stock, which then had to be 
converted to 35mm film - one of cinema's wonderful anachronisms.

The film was backed by the impresario Michael Watt, a supporter of 
anti-poverty projects all over the world, who had told producer Wayne 
Young that he wanted to put my TV work in the cinema. Granada provided 
additional support, and ITV will broadcast the film later in the year. 
The extra funding also allowed me to persuade the late Sam Cooke's New 
York agents to license A Change Is Gonna Come, one of the finest, most 
lyrical pieces of black music ever written and performed. I was in the 
southern United States when it was released. It was the time of the 
civil-rights movement, and Cooke's song spoke to and for all people 
struggling to be free. The same is true of the ballads of the Chilean 
Victor Jara, whose songs celebrated the popular democracy of Salvador 
Allende before Pinochet and the CIA extinguished it.

We filmed in the National Stadium in Santiago, Chile, where Jara was 
taken along with thousands of other political prisoners. By all 
accounts, he was a source of strength for his comrades, singing for them 
until soldiers beat him to the ground and smashed his hands. He wrote 
his last song there and it was smuggled out on scraps of paper. These 
are the words:

What horror the face of fascism


They carry out their plans with

knife-like precision ...

For them, blood equals medals ...

How hard it is to sing

When I must sing of horror ...

In which silence and screams

Are the end of my song.

After two days of torture, they killed him. The War On Democracy is 
about such courage and a warning to us all that "for them" nothing has 
changed, that "blood equals medals".

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