Film

Bolivian Political Doc ‘A Moment of Silence’ Gives Voice to Those Who Had Power

by

“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

Outsider Pictures

Opens May 20, Village East Cinema