“People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.” It’s an old line from comics writer Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, but such visions of shifting power are exactly what Ferdinando Vicentini Orgnani wants us to question in his otherwise dense and meandering new political documentary, A Moment of Silence.
Recounting the 2002 Bolivian presidential election that led to the ousting of affluent old-guard politician Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada in favor of populist unionist Evo Morales, the film disputes the legitimacy of this political revolution and whether change has truly been wrought.
There’s a juicy story in here, but Orgnani desiccates his narrative by relying on jargon-laden interviews with political wonks and dry intellectuals, presenting a byzantine account of the events with little context. Sans narrator, timeline, or clear-cut structure, this may have been made for Bolivian political junkies alone.
The closest we come to a focal point is Sánchez de Lozada himself, presented here as a contrite and grandfatherly exile, cognizant of mistakes made in office but also proud of the work he did. (Morales is painted as a smug hypocrite.) The film might have worked as an exploration of corrupt radicalism, but a lot of words are thrown around instead — “racism,” “colonialism,” “neoliberalism” — without any deeper probing of how these issues affect Bolivians, including the majority-indigenous population.
The last fifteen minutes finally showcase indigenous activists who make clear just how their government’s policies have hurt them. Where had they been all along? A Moment of Silence seems less interested in providing a voice for the issues than a voice for the patriarchs who lament their loss of authority.
A Moment of Silence
Directed by Ferdinando Vicentini Orgnani
Opens May 20, Village East Cinema