Ripped from the headlines by a fortuitously situated pair of Irish tele-journalists, Kim Bartley and Donnacha O’Briain, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised tells the tale of the two-day April 2002 coup d’état that, despite tacit American support, failed to oust Venezuela’s populist president, Hugo Chávez.
Chávez, who served time for leading his own failed coup back in 1992, was democratically elected to preside over the world’s fourth largest producer of oil. Still, he has a caudillo strut; the hero of rallies where a thousand Che posters bloom, he delivers anti-globalist rhetoric with a definite Cuban backbeat. Thus, waging class warfare against an oil oligarchy that controls five of the nation’s six TV channels, he nearly fell victim to Bushie petropolitik. Shades of September 11—September 11, 1973, that is—when the CIA orchestrated the overthrow of Salvador Allende. Barely considered newsworthy in the Belly of the Beast, the Chávez story is a gripping narrative that played out on TV and in the streets, as well as inside the presidential palace, where the filmmakers, working on a Chávez profile, happened to be.
In addition to reporting a scoop, Bartley and O’Briain do an excellent job in deconstructing the Venezuelan TV news footage of blood, chaos, and rival crowds. As befits its title, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is nearly a textbook on media manipulation. It also makes you wonder: How did Hugo Chávez escape the Matrix and how long can he keep doing it? The opposition is currently attempting to have him removed through a recall.