This Week's New Releases
dir. Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain
Plays Fri-Thurs Feb 27-March 4 at the Varsity.
Initially, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised was meant to be a simple profile of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez--a headstrong brown man who has the balls of a bull, the air of a visionary, and the courage of a madman. To some (those on the right), he was a dangerous buffoon; to others (the left), he was a force of good, a panther leading Venezuela to nothing less than the sunshine of utopia. No one seems to see him as a complex mix of the two. He is either a devil or a saint.
After watching victorious Napoleon enter Jena on October 13, 1806, the German philosopher Hegel wrote that he had seen die Weltseele (the soul of the world--the World Spirit) passing on horseback; Chavez is for the 21st century something of a global Geist, except he is transported by helicopters, jet planes, and Mercedeses. The filmmakers' mission was to get to the heart of this enigmatic figure: Who is he? Is he for real? Is he an enlightened voice of the people? Or a cruel dictator? Or both? While filming the answers to these questions, though, Bartley and O'Briain suddenly found themselves documenting, on April 12, 2002, the fall of a president besieged by his right-wing (and evidently CIA-supported) opponents.
The leader of the fourth largest oil-producing country in the world, Chavez, according to the beginning of this documentary, is a president who works hard to be with his people, to hear and respond to their large and small concerns (one man wants the president to get him a wheelbarrow, or some such farm implement; another wants the president to help her get a bank loan--all letters, 200 a day, are answered). Chavez is passionate about the poor and wants to improve their situation in a world whose economy, though global, is controlled by, and so favors, a few powerful interests in North America, Europe, and Japan. Though something of a Borgesian gaucho (as revealed by the cherished story he tells about his rebellious grandfather), Chavez is an intellectual. He is familiar with current debates about free trade, neoliberalism, and so on. Chavez is also democratic to the point of being a fanatic (he goes on and on about adhering to Venezuela's constitution, which is by no means a bad thing). Another important aspect of Chavez's presidency is that it's supported by a rainbow of Venezuelans (white, brown, black), whereas his political adversaries are, and are predominantly supported by, white Venezuelans.
Suddenly, though, the president's palace is besieged. Tanks are threatening to reduce it to rubble if Chavez does not surrender. Chavez is defiant at first, but then surrenders, not because he is scared but because he doesn't want blood to be shed. And this is the truth that The Revolution Will Not Be Televised brings to light, a truth that was pretty much ignored/obscured by CNN and other American news sources: Chavez does not see himself as the most important human in Venezuela--if such were the case he would have fought to the death to stay in power. And he had every reason not to surrender; his political opponents had clearly broken the law by forcefully--instead of democratically--ending his rule. Which brings me to the documentary's final point: It makes a link between Venezuela and Iraq, for both countries are of great interest to the Bush administration because of oil, and, if given the chance, Bush would have made Chavez into a Saddam, and dealt Venezuela the blow that he dealt Iraq. Indeed, the imagination of Venezuela's right made no distinction between Chavez and bin Laden--but Chavez has little in common with bin Laden, or Saddam.
Late in the film, there is a great scene that shows a terrorized protester who, on the day the right takes control of the palace, yells on the street (as the police are shooting at protesters) that during the three years that Chavez was in power no one was attacked during a demonstration. Hours after the comment, millions of protesters surround the palace, the new government collapses, and, after descending from the night sky in a helicopter, the Geist Chavez is reinstated. The failure of the coup was Bush's first failure, his first Iraq. CHARLES MUDEDE
Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights
dir. Guy Ferland
Opens Fri Feb 27.
Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights works hard to drench its viewers with all the hot Latin passion they can handle. The end result: the tripiest tripe in Tripetown.
Not a sequel but an "inspired by the original" hack work, Havana Nights stars Y Tu Mamá También's Diego Luna as a young Cuban working for a posh honky resort. At said resort, he meets a fair and pale young woman named Katey (Romola Garai), in town due to her father's work, who spends her days with her nose firmly affixed to the scholarly grindstone. Inside, however, young Katey has a fire burning, and that fire is for dance.
So, to recap, we have a hot Cuban stud and a brainy American girl who yearns to let loose her passions. What more to add? How about a dance competition at the posh resort, where the sight of a Cuban boy and a WASP'y woman twisting each other into sweaty knots will surely spark some controversy. Toss in a dash of Cuban revolution, as well as a cameo by a hysterically leathery Patrick Swayze (playing a dance instructor, though not the same character as in the "prequel"--at least, I don't think so; it's never really explained, or perhaps I just didn't care), and the final tally inspires eye-gouging fits in its viewers. That is, of course, unless those viewers are 12-year-old girls, for they will surely find themselves swooning for Havana Nights as easily as their predecessors did for the original. BRADLEY STEINBACHER