X-Rays of a Lie

(Radiografia de una Mentira)

The war of propaganda continues in Venezuela. In America, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 eventually triggered some inferior responses from conservative filmmakers. Celsius 41.11 was a five-point rebuttal to Moore's film, and while it may have done a good job in presenting a case against Moore, it did so in a dry, dull way. Worse, it was reactionary, thus felt on the defensive for most of the film. In Venezuela, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised triggered a similar response. This is perfectly natural given the extremely controversial nature of President Hugo Chavez. Chavez is an extremely polarizing figure who recently won a reelection campaign in an election forced by the opposition, when they garnered enough signatures. Revolution was obviously pro-Chavez in its slant. Chavez supporters tended to fall amongst the poor, and there are many poor people in Venezuela. Chavez opponents tended to be from the middle and upper class, who worried about Chavez's promises to redistribute the oil wealth and thereby diminish their power.

The largest allegation from directors Wolfgang Schalk and Thaelman Urgelles against Revolution is that it is a pure piece of propaganda, financed by the Chavez regime and distributed under various names. Venezuelan officials carry copies of the film around with them when they travel the world, and try to organize as many screenings as possible. The purpose is to extol Chavez while dragging the opposition through the dirt. Schalk and Urgelles presented their case in a seminar, where they had a panel moderating a discussion of Revolution. Well, really it was just a panel that tore apart Revolution piece by piece, responding to its various allegations. X-Rays of a Lie is nothing more than a nicely edited video of that presentation.

In this respect, this is a worse film, not because of its content, but because of its presentation. Many of the scenes with Schalk and his pointer standing in front of a large screen rebutting various arguments feels like a college lecture because, well, that's basically what it was. He has a bunch of interested people watching, and he and the moderators rail on about the evils of Revolution, pretty much the same way that Revolution railed against the opposition. The camera focuses on the other moderators, turning this into one of those videos people can buy when they're about to go home from that business convention. The editing is nice, and X-Rays of a Lie works when it focuses not on that discussion, but on a wealth of documentary footage from other sources contrary to what was seen in Revolution. With so much footage, Schalk and Urgelles should have used more voice over to present their points.

This documentary presents five types of "lies" - conceptual lies, editing lies, omissions, half lies, and full-on untruths. However, it tends to fall into two categories, interesting and uninteresting. There is a brief, highly interesting explanation on the power of the government over Venezuelan television, and the ability of Chavez to commandeer airtime for his own broadcasts that does take the wind out of many claims in Revolution. They also present facts that are the opposite of what Revolution stated, and do so in a clear and simple manner. At other times the film becomes extremely nit-picky, taking every opportunity to show how Revolution was flawed, just to point out how wrong it was. While the use of judicious editing may be ethically wrong, it will probably be interesting to film students or aficionados of Venezuelan politics, but few others. Schalk and Urgelles are obviously passionate about their subject. But in their ardor, they didn't realize that not everybody else feels the same way they do. They need to grip the audience and utterly convince them of their rightness, and this doesn't happen when presenting their arguments in lecture form. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised does an excellent job of this. Anybody watching can tell that it's clearly biased in one direction, but it still makes for a gripping viewing experience.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 22 minutes, Spanish with English subtitles, Not Rated but would probably be a PG or PG-13.

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