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  • Students of Uncle Sam's doings in Latin America from the overthrow of Allende or earlier will find little new in Pilger's first big screen documentary. But its message needs to repeated again and again and as widely as possible: that "freedom" and "democracy" loving US regimes have stolen or overridden the rights of the poor in every part of the world, perhaps most of all in the "back yard". I saw the movie in a white liberal middle class district of London where the normally reticent audience gave it a round of applause. Preaching to the converted maybe. It needs to be shown as widely as possible. Viva Pilger!
  • I'm dual nationality US & UK, I've spent half my life across each nation and have always been far prouder of my American heritage but by that I mean the country, it's people but not it's government.

    Let me clarify, the British government is atrocious and highly corrupt but the leaders over the pond have taken it to the next level ever since their creation.

    This fantastic piece by British journalist John Pilger is about Americas direct influence into Latin American countries such as Chile and Venezuala and the atrocities they have caused to better their own interests.

    Heartbreaking, powerful and eye opening if you aren't aware of the steps the US go to further their economy this is essential viewing.

    The USA for anyone with any awareness is the proverbial boy who cried wolf. They manipulate their people using the media to such an extent with their lies that every time a new story comes out you do have to question it.

    They've been lying about the middle east for decades and still are. At time of writing how much of what we are told about North Korea is true? And how much is to sway public opinion to their own personal agendas?

    The Good:

    Professionaly made

    Great interview segments

    Essential viewing

    The Bad:

    Doesn't make for the easiest watch

    Things I Learnt From This Movie:

    The US has attempted to overthrow 50 governments, more than I had originally believed
  • John Pilger has won high accolades for journalism (Journalist of the Year, twice) and award-winning television documentaries. But some people will still ignore him because he is too 'New Statesman'. He utters unpopular views. He backs them up with evidence. But that can leave you feeling uncomfortable. His new film does that in spades. Over South America.

    This new documentary is his first major film for the cinema.

    When I personally have travelled in South America, I marvelled at how basic facts about Western foreign policy's role in destabilising 'unfriendly' governments is normal knowledge. From shop workers to academics. Far more than in Britain. Here, most people are now probably aware that the CIA toppled the democratically elected President Allende of Chile. That they were responsible for the succession of the tyrant Pinochet. Those with slightly longer memories probably recall the scandal over Nicaragua when the USA backed the wrong side. Again, against a democratically elected government. To live with ourselves (and our governments) we tend to think these were just mistakes of the past. The reality is that the truth, in those cases, couldn't be suppressed easily. The reality is that similar events are continuing. As policy.

    Suppressing truth is always a sensitive issue. Many years ago, when I came out of the Singapore War Museum, there were Japanese visitors with tears in their eyes. It was the first time they had been confronted with the horrors that their government had committed during WWII. Other countries frequently feel angry that Japan does not retell more of its war crimes in standard school books. It is simply easier, in most cases, not to. Pilger's film is about crimes against democracy that it is 'easier' to ignore. The culprit being a country that almost invented the word. The United States of America.

    Interviews are conducted with renegade CIA agents like Philip Agee, but also with Duane Clarridge, former head of CIA operations in South America. Clarridge openly defends America's right to do what they want anywhere in the world and to anyone, regardless of their innocence - as long as it's in America's national interest. 'Like it or lump it,' he says. A harrowing interview features an American nun, Dianna Ortiz. Ortiz reveals how she was tortured and gang raped in the late 80s by a group led by a fellow American clearly in league with a US-backed regime. Ortiz asks whether the American people are aware of the role their country plays in subverting innocent nations under the guise of a 'war on terror'. CIA man and Watergate conspirator Howard Hunt describes how he and others overthrew a previously democratically elected government. Hunt even mentions how he organised "a little harmless bombing".

    More controversially, Pilger features extensive footage with Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez. This is a man demonised by President Bush, but one about whom the facts are harder to determine. That he has used much of his country's vast oil wealth to benefit the poor is largely accepted, give or take some details. But that he has taken steps to concentrate power in himself arouses sterner debate. War on Democracy, uniquely, shows us the country from the inside. Many of the conditions are reminiscent of Allende's Chile. The power of the media seems unabated and is fiercely anti-government. But we see how it is owned by the rich half of the class divide. When the military try to unseat Chavez, thousands of people come out of the slums to protest until he is returned to power. These are people who had no voice before Chavez and they are devoted to him as passionately. Just as the wealthy classes are opposed to him. Given the forces he is up against, the assumption of power (and from a democratically elected base) seems more understandable. We recall how Allende, even with popular support, was brought down. Chavez looks like a tougher nut.

    Pilger's attitude towards Chavez is friendly, although he does ask him about the poverty that remains, in spite of the vast oil wealth. Could his interview have been more balanced without playing into the hands of those fabricating the lies he is trying to expose? Pilger also travels to America and uses undercover filming. The 'School of Americas' in Georgia is where Pinochet's torture squads were trained, together with death squads in other Latin American countries. The wide-ranging testimony is unsettling.

    Pilger's extensive travels in Latin America, in depth interviews, documentation and film archives obtained under US freedom of information, evidence corroborated by people in opposing camps, his own calm sincerity - they all paint a cohesive portrait of USA attacks on democracy.

    The main fault I found with the War on Democracy was not any lack of balance. Pilger argues his case quite methodically and convincingly and gives critics ample right of reply. He is not a soundbite merchant, parading flashy quotes in Michael Moore fashion. But the difficulty - and one Moore did overcome - is that Pilger's years of experience on the small screen has not translated effectively to cinema. The timing is probably right - what with the re-examinations of 9/11 and criticisms of US policy now being acceptable topics of discussion. Horrors of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib quickly come to mind. But it still feels like a television programme, even if it is many notches above Panorama or Dispatches.

    Overall, The War on Democracy is an excellent primer on US destabilisation and anti-democracy measures in Latin America. To civil rights enthusiasts and Amnesty International supporters, much of it will be nothing new. But it is told with piercing insight and no sense of personal axes-to-grind. Previous films by John Pilger have done much good. $40 million was raised unsolicited by his film on Cambodia (Cambodia Year Zero) which to help the thousands of orphaned children there. The aim of this film is simply to increase awareness.
  • A labor of love on the part of Pilger, a long-time activist for peace and freedom for all, Pilger journeys into several Latin American countries-Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, and Chile, and documents efforts being made to broaden the accessibility of freedom. He documents the populism promulgated by leaders by Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales, the President of relatively poor Bolivia, to promote the values of true democracy, in which the poor are franchised and invested in the well-being of the country. Pilger talks to people who were adversely affected by CIA-backed coups in many of these same South and Central American countries during the second half of the 20th century, making a powerful witness to the deleterious effect of greed and the disproportionate allocation of power in the hands of a few. The work of the CIA on behalf of US corporately acceptable "leaders" is documented; much of this is not new, but Pilger's main accomplishment is collating and connecting the material on so many foreign interventions by the CIA.

    A wise cinematographic decision by Pilger is to interview and show the people of these nations. They appear decent and it is important for Westerners to realize that they have a lot in common with the so-called impoverished. Beneath our different exteriors, we share many characteristics. Also, the footage of the countries, and often just the day-to-day lives are lovely and the mountainous backdrops of Bolivia, Peru, and Chile, are beautiful. Pilger makes a strong case for government conducted on behalf of the people and interviews Chavez, allowing him to make his case for such a rule-of-law. Pilger interviews a couple of CIA sources, including the head of the CIA in South America during the mid-1980s. He asks him whether the ouster of Allende had been justified and the man states that the ends had to justify the means. He also said that US interests were protected via the installation of Pinochet, failing to recognize the contrast between US claims of respect for democratically elected governments and US intervention when the US, oh.....felt like it. Pilger's decision to refuse to interrupt while the man put his foot in his mouth and re-affirmed the importance of protecting US interests over even sovereign governments, seems wise. The man only seems all the more out-of-touch and arrogant for his unapologetic defense of autocracy. This is a powerful indictment of greed and of the possible benefits available to ALL if the US will allow sovereign governments to work autonomously. Notably, the film is available via Google Video for those interested.
  • Democracy is one of the old-fashioned goods the U.S. have exported to developing countries. To quote President Bush: "America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others to find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way." Can it be so? Absolutely not. The reality has usually been the other way round. Democracy made in the U.S. is like Pandora box for tiny countries.

    The War On Democracy filmed by John Pilger shows well the falsity of the U.S. through the revelation of the hidden, suppressed history in Latin America.

    Don't be embarrassed at the fact that The U.S has tried to turn over democratic governments under the guise of democracy. Especially, many countries in Latin America have been attacked with the loss of countless lives, and their leaders became the victims of an injustice; Jacobo Arbenz, a democratically elected Guatemalan president in 1950, was forced into exile being stripped naked and photographed; In 1973 Salvador Allende of Chile took his life against the bombing led by General Pinochet, an America's man.

    By what right, has the U.S. played the leading role in destroying the democratic governments and the dreams of the people? Who gives the U.S. the right? Let's listen to the pretext of Duane Clarridge, head of the CIA's Latin American division in the early 1980s in Chile. "We'll intervene whenever we decide it's in our national security interests to intervene, and if you don't like it, lump it. Get used to it, world -we're not gonna put up with nonsense. If our interests are threatened, we're gonna do it." Philip Agee, C.I.A. agent 1967-68, also back up the Clarridge's excuse. "In the CIA, we didn't give a hoot about democracy. I mean, it was fine if a government was elected and would cooperate with us, but, if it didn't, then democracy didn't mean a thing to us, and I don't think it means a thing today." Like pilger's saying, it's evident no country has a right to go its own way, unless that way coincides with the interests of the United States.

    However, the U.S. tasted the bitterness of defeat on April, 2002 in Venezuela. The joint work of Washington and the wealthy of Caracas to get rid of President Chavez ended up failing due to people power demanding the return of their president. In spite of the planned coup, Chavez was put in the bosom of the people in 48 hours after being abducted.

    The people power was also brilliant in Bolivia. In 2000, to take backs the valuable resources like water, Bolivian people fought against a foreign consortium dominated by the American corporation Bechtel, and accomplished their hope. Furthermore, in 2005, the indigenous person, Evo Morales, was elected president for the first time ever.

    Of course, there sure is another plot of empire still going in Latin America, Middle East, Afghanistan, and Africa. However, the rising up against empire will never stop as long as the people power exists. As Hugo Chavez says, the world should be governed by the rule of law, equality, justice and fraternity, not by empire's greed.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I won't duplicate comments made by others apart from to say that the film was well-written and explained. Pilger let the facts speak for themselves. By not over-dramatising (in Hollywood style), the film was bearable to watch, in spite of the terrible subject matter.

    Special mention has to go to the angry CIA man (Duane), who warned that if countries don't follow Washington's wishes economically and politically, their governments/people will face further coups, torture, poverty and economic sabotage. Although we always suspected this will carry on, it's still refreshing/chilling to actually hear it from the horse's mouth.

    I watched this on ITV on 20.8.07 from 11pm to after 12:30. ITV is not usually a very political channel and I would have expected to see this on Channel 4 or BBC2, so good work, ITV, for raising your intellectual level, even if it was when many are sleeping.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    John Pilger's first documentary for the cinema is also his most optimistic. When I sat down to watch it with an audience, I was wondering why Pilger had chosen this time to release a documentary for cinema when he's been doing this for television for so long. I think the optimism is the reason, the need to get that optimism across to a much broader audience than the one that views his television work. Recent work like "The Corporation", "The Yes Men", as well as the work of Micheal Moore, has shown a demand for this kind of non-fiction in the cinema and Pilger is following this trend. What this work has in common is need to critique US power, the different ways in which this manifests itself, and the effect it has on people all over the world.

    Here, Pilger focuses on Latin America, the source of much popular uprising in recent years with the arrival in Venezuala of President Hugo Chavez and the failed US-backed bid to overthrow him after he acknowledged and championed the poor at the expense of the rich minority whom (because of this) he had begun to make uncomfortable.

    Interestingly there is a lack of censorship shown in the Venezualan media which means attacks on the President and his policies are not only constant but almost violently vociferous. Perhaps the only failing in Pilger's examination of Venezuala (including a face-to-face interview with Chavez himself) is specifying where this opposition comes from, asides from the privileged minority in the country and US media and government officials.

    Pilger further examines other cases in Latin America, including El Salvatore, Guatemala and Chile, where US or US-backed suppression of social or political movements (often elected democracies) that oppose their involvement in these countries has led to poverty, torture and murder. Former CIA agents willingly admit on screen that if a government, democratic or not, was not co-operative with US power they were often under orders from the highest level to destroy or undermine such governments using any methods necessary. One such official, a former CIA chief called Duane Clarridge responsible for torture and murder of civilians in Chile, is so blatantly ignorant and unapologetic in his answers to Pilger's questions that his responses induced laughter in the audience I watched it with.

    Throughout all of this, Pilger features his usual interviewing of civilians caught up in, and often victims of, these various conflicts. Some of this is insightful but, like his use of music in some moments, can border on the emotionally manipulative. Also his early extensive emphasis on Venezuala means his coverage of the other countries feels abbreviated as a result. That said, most of the time Pilger gets it right and his interviews along with his readings of each country's history effectively communicate his message.

    Rather than despairing of the reality of what he depicts, Pilger instead offers hope for change in the will of the people never to be victimised and to continue to resist and challenge oppressive power - a change is a-coming and Latin America, like the rest of us, is right in the middle of it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Journalist and conscience of the nation John Pilger has been making excellent 'wake-up' TV programmes for years, and as we enter the new golden age of the documentary it was inevitable that he would move up to the big screen. He has chosen the recent struggle between Venezuela and the US as his leading theme, and the film opens by setting the background, before examining the events of the past few years, first by showing the 'spin' colluded upon by the short-lived coup, its US sponsors and the news media; then by exploding that fiction. It works, as it should in a movie, like an epic thriller. But even Micky Spillane loses out in competition with horrific real life. From Venezuela we are taken back to the other countries, where Uncle Sam has stamped on democracy: back to Guatemala, the original 'banana republic' in the US' arrogantly termed back yard, and including of course Chile. British viewers will be disappointed that Margaret Thatcher didn't get a mention as the gracious supporter of the murderous General Pinochet. There was a mention of terrorist's supporters being as worthy of condemnation as the terrorists themselves. Just a five-frame subliminal shot of Maggie there would do it! But there are plenty of choice nuggets in this film, painstakingly compiled from recent video, Pilger's interviews with Hugo Chavez himself, panoramic shots of these countries as they are now; the hills, the suburbs, the barrios, plus ancient news and propaganda footage. Some of the old stuff brought back the paranoid atmosphere of the Fifties, when we were faced with the Red Menace, and we were expected to 'duck and cover' under the nearest picnic cloth when we saw that Flash. One choice set piece is the interview with Duane Clarridge, ex-CIA man with responsibility for the torture and murder in Chile, justified because it was in America's interest, and sometimes 'you have to take unpleasant steps'. Or, as he put it another way, it just didn't happen. His contemptuous dismissals of all Pilger's allegations go beyond self-parody. Once again, real life leaves no room for the satirists. Despite it being the first really hot day of this wet English summer, the theatre was half-full, and the audience gave a heart-felt applause.
  • John Pilger is a unique journalist with credentials to boot. I find this documentary very helpful in shining a light on otherwise ill reported topics. The only problem is that this title is unavailable in the United States just now. It is funny that all his documentaries aren't shown there. Some aren't shown here in the U.K. The idea that he is Anti-west as is touted by some very narrow minded people is absurd. I recommend watching this Documentary and many others of his like it. You will find he is not anti west, just anti corporate globalisation. That is a very important issue that is never covered by the mainstream media. This is the only reason that the other review here is condemning him. Watch with an open mind. With regards here is a quote of Jeanette winterson about history and information in a media frenzied world. "If you want to keep your own teeth, make your own sandwiches." The world needs more information like this. We are tomorrows people and the fact that the U.s, U.K (my own country) and many other huge corporate meccas ignore the rest of the world, creating this muddled up terror riddled nightmare, can only be settled, even a little, by people opening their minds and hearts to more than just their own comfy lifestyle. I not a conspiracy theorist, they should all be condemned. Freedom of information is essential for great journalism, journalism should publicise human beings (like us) being screwed in our name. This documentary is great. watch more like it. Well done again Mr Pilger. :)
  • The bottom line for John Pilger's WAR ON DEMOCRACY documentary = Go See It! Then you can talk about it.

    I am addressing these remarks in the first place to law-abiding people, as most sharply distinguished from war criminals. The definition of a crisis = a period in which, in order to abide by that law which serves justice only, one must be prepared to enforce it. This extraordinary duty occurs because the official agencies with their names in the upper case --DoJ, DoD & CIA, for example-- have been captured by a bloody tyranny which utterly perverts such basic political concepts as those of justice, defense and intelligence. (Spook HQ is now officially named the George Bush Center for Intelligence, which is located two doors down from the Wilt Chamberlain Home for Short People.) These general reflections very much pertain to the subject of Mr.Pilger's masterpiece.

    I speak Spanish and briefly represented the U.S. State Department in Chile in 1964 & '65. In its hour & a half, WOD covers Latin America from El Salvador to Chile with a focus on Venezuela led by Hugo Chavez and a stop in Bolivia. For those new to this continent, WOD's an absolutely essential introduction. For those who already know it (among the group whom I'm addressing, please remember), they will be overjoyed to see an intelligent and artistically coherent story of their homelands on the Big Screen. We're talking about a place more than twice the area of the USA with more than half a billion people, hundreds of millions of whom are dirt poor and many of whom have had relatives murdered by thugs trained by the US Army at the "School of the Americas", which has recently changed its name out of embarrassment.

    When Pilger says that the CIA puppet regime in Guatemala slew "thousands", he is grossly understating the case, since the best estimate's ~250,000. Naturally he spent more time in countries where it's safer to film. Once we understand that we should all bring everybody we know to see this movie, then we can acknowledge that it's an opening of the door to a vast realm. Many more such features need to be made even to begin to do justice to the material.

    A criticism: In discussion with a Chilean physician who was a torture victim, Pilger uses a phrase about being "ensnared in fascism". IMHO he should simply forget the F word. As a matter of historical fact, Benito Mussolini, who created the concept of Fascism and led that Party in national power for a quarter of a century, had a lot more going for him than did the traitor Generals Rios Montt of Guatemala or Augusto Pinochet of Chile, to name only two of the dozens of US puppets in the region. The CIA's Guatemalan Genociderals in particular in their atrocities by far exceeded any acts of repression which Il Duce ever carried out in Italy. In other words, from Ronald Reagan until now the U.S. Government gives Fascism a bad name.

    Anyone who wants to have a head's up 'tude toward such a big part of our human race will definitely want to check out John Pilger's well-informed portrait of the irresistibly rising forces of the Western Hemisphere. Alert supporters of Barack Obama, Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney will want to give thought to tying in WOD to their candidates' campaigns.

    OTOH white supremacists & jingoes who think that slaughtering the families of foreigners is still cool, especially if they themselves can get a piece of the financial action, well, such "Chicago boys" as SonnaBush calls them in WOD, they will pan Pilger's product as skillfully as they can manage.
  • I had been waiting for the film for several months, and when I finally got to see it (through google video), I was in awe. This proved to be one of the best, if not THE best film of all times in my opinion. By far the best documentary I have ever seen. When the US is allowed to behave the way it wants, the results will be terrible, as history classes normally don't teach us, but that doesn't mean that the US is behaving well. It only has good PR and propaganda in place world wide. The US is in effect the Evil Empire, and the sooner it is put to sleep, the better it would be. For as long as it is allowed to do things the "American way", the rest of the world will be suffering greatly. America is fascist, has been so for as long as it has existed, and will probably continue to be so, because the American public is not willing or able to understand the way their country is construed. There is nothing democratic about the US or the way it attacks other countries economically or militarily. It is pure fascism. The American public accepts whatever they are told by their handlers, because then they don't have to take responsibility for anything. (true cowards). Fortunately the US will be defeated, and my hope, along with most of the world, is that their defeat will be so great, that no other nation will ever behave like the US has and does. Any human being who watches this film, will have watery eyes when it is over.... the international terrorism caused and carried out by the US is no less to day than it was 30 or 50 years ago. It is sickening they have been enabled to carry out their hideous crimes. Millions murdered around the world, so that the US can maintain it's "leading role". It doesn't matter what the president of the US is named or what party he comes from, it's the whole BASIS for the country which is rotten to the core. Disgusting country which ... if possible... should be launched into space, towards some big black hole where it would disappear forever.

    Watch the film and see the truth about it all.
  • And it's probably not going to be thing that prevent this to reach 10 score IMHO, but the fact that this documentary carry a lot of burden to deliver the facts and truth, and in many ways it did. For those who thinks this is one sided approach and subjective they have their right of believing that, but for us who live near the facts it's the other side story that opens what we always feel and experience but never had the chance to reveal it to the world. There are many case in my country that possesses many similarities with things showed in this documentary, from the Reagen's era of communist fear until now, from the oppressive backed-up leader to now... minus that we don't have Chavez type of person here, which is very unfortunate. On the short notes yes this is very one sided documentary shows, whether you despise it or love depend's on your experience and point of view, but for some this one just complemented the other side of story which always been oppressed by the great force in shadows. probably only time will tells the real truth about this and many events around this movies.
  • I do not wish to add more praise on my fellow-Australian than has been heaped on him so far, but it was great to see a well made documentary covering the way the US corporate empire tries as desperately to hang on to its satrapies as did the Roman and Ottoman empires.

    We had the unpleasant experience of having our popularly elected government led by Gough Whitlam destabilised by the CIA while at the same time they were backing Indonesia's illegal invasion of East Timor in which six Australian journalists were murdered. It turns out that the coup by which that Indonesian leader, Suharto, came to power was also orchestrated by the CIA, and thousands of Indonesians, especially ethnic Chinese, were slaughtered in the name of anti-Communism.

    It is by now well known that the casus belli for the war on the Vietnamese, the so-called Gulf of Tonkin incident, was a total fabrication, used to justify President Johnson's decision to reverse President Kennedy's plan to withdraw all troops from South Vietnam.

    There is plenty material here for The War on Democracy II if John wants to do a sequel.
  • I'm not sure that Pilger really hits the mark here. I've always appreciated his work for drawing attention to that which is too easily ignored, and this he does successfully. I sat through this at a preview in Sydney tonight with a friend who is normally very well-versed on such issues, but afterward admitted to being largely ignorant as to most of the content of this film, which really offered very little in terms of new information to myself. More of a refresher course in South American affairs, really. OK, it's pretty much all true... but...

    It comes across very much as a one man, one camera, and limited budget for graphics effort. The directorial aspect seems to be mainly embodied in editing and glorious panoramic shots of various South American cities. And where is the real argument - about the "war on democracy"? There are veiled references to U.S. interference, almost as though this is not the real subject of the film in spite of its title and promotion. It's actually more of a self-contained examination of diverging aspirations of democracy, populist movements and the economic elite in South America, regardless of external influence.

    However, the real problem here is Pilger's own personal struggle in trying to reconcile journalism - or his intended documentary - and what constitutes propaganda - or a new-age socialist diatribe. It's awkward realising that Pilger is trying to avoid allowing his own opinions to override the message of his piece, yet at the same time sitting through some inappropriate musical montages, pats on the back, embellished choices of shots and very poor selections of interviewees to offer any sort of a rational counter-point. I don't care if this particular character was head of the CIA in Latin America in the early 80s - he's senile. There really isn't any sort of decent argument mounted against the pro-socialist-democracy taint of this film. Thereby it allows itself to be tainted.

    And I am absolutely, in no way at all, disagreeing with any of it. It's just that Pilger tries so hard to not be Michael Moore that his lack of audacity and commitment impinges upon the merits of this as a movie (i.e. a piece of fluff or engaging entertainment). At the same time, allowing himself to draw more rhetoric than conclusion or argument in his intros and outros can only attract criticism.

    I really do hope that people go and see this anyway. It's a great summary of U.S. political interference in South and Central America over the last half of the 20th century, and without indulging them, raises issues that are parallel to our current conundrums throughout the rest of the world. And I guess a whole lot of the point of this piece is that people simply don't know, or don't pay attention to this stuff (and as pointed out, it ain't taught in school).

    I think the biggest weakness of this piece is that those that disagree and have alternative pre-formed opinions will simply not pay attention - and this was evidenced by the skeptics who were sitting behind me, who initially wouldn't shut up from muttering "" under their breath but ended up walking out half way through, well before any of the points they were reacting to were properly made. And there's no point preaching to the converted.

    5 as a flick (which is why we're here), 7 because i believe in the message and its worth = 6 overall (sorry John, but I'm sure the next one will be better, and keep up the good work)
  • I could write pages of why this film is so good. But I won't. I could write pages of why this film is needed but I won't. I could write pages on why Pilger is the greatest documentary maker of all time but I won't. Pilger is one of those people that doesn't do it for praise, doesn't do it for glory and also doesn't do it to make friends ;) John Pilger does it because everyone else doesn't. What I find so remarkable is that I don't know another journalist or filmmaker who truly represents the true nature of being human. A man who not only sticks to his guns but has a pure spirit to get things right from the beginning. I "SALUTE" (selfless plug) you mate. You are my favorite film makers of all time. I will forever hold you in the highest respect in these simple words.. "You make me a better person and a much more courageous filmmaker.

    For those reading this.. don't just watch this film but go purchase every film ever made by Pilger. 10/10 for being you.


    Matt Norman Director / Producer "SALUTE"

    "I can only dream that I will make a difference, but I can assure you I will" (Matt Norman 2009)
  • A well put-together documentary that makes you think about the issues it discusses, with a couple of fatal flaws in its argument that make you love it or hate it, depending on your existing political affiliation. As a longstanding admirer of Milton Friedman, who is lambasted in this film as the economic "mad scientist" of Chile, I disliked it.

    Pilger is successful at creating controversy and getting those vital emotional scenes in, but he very much shoots himself in the foot elsewhere. The fawning interview with Chavez (who Pilger, like Ken Livingstone, another old red, seems determined to defend at all costs)leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and indeed many of his scenes describing the bright new Venezuala (like the reading/writing class) give the appearance of state intervention.

    Similiarly this film can be easily divided into "light" and "dark" scenes, the darkest being Pilger's descriptions of the USA, usually in front of Capitol looking ominous beneath a grey sky. It shouldn't surprise you the revolutionary rhetoric of the cold war makes an unwelcome re-appearance, America is guilty of ill-defined "imperialism". It's motives for wanting regime change in S. America aren't explored at all, besides a couple of tired old CIA veterans dragged into the light for re-examination of what we already know.

    It's pure polemic in some sections, where Pilger abandons all notion of impartiality and speaks directly to the camera. Chile's success as one of the few countries in S. America with a viable non-distorted economy is explored only as far as its homeless problem, while the real reason Chavez's dystopian Venezuala is able to function, the billions in oil bucks handed to it every year by the US and other Western countries, is smoothed over. This style of reporting hasn't been around since the cold war, it's ideas from the decades of revolution (look what a success that was!) between 1940-70. It's my opinion that Pilger, like a lot of old lefties (Galloway, Livingstone, Pinter), was thrown askance by the the collapse of the USSR, and it has taken him, like them, a good deal of time to find their feet in a world which the dreaded capitalism has well and truly won. The re-appearance of any form of revolutionary socialism, no matter how authoritarian, has them jumping over one another to attack the USA and Latin America has become the new battleground. We were on the subject of exploitation....?
  • Using the recent action in Venezuela and the ongoing tensions with the US as his focal point, journalist John Pilger looks at the role of Washington in the control and manipulation of Governments and politics in Latin America. What he finds is elected Presidents removed with the support and perhaps connivance of the US, resulting in suffering, massacres and poverty for the indigenous populations left to face the consequences of US foreign policy.

    It helps to be fairly liberal in your views to watch this film because Pilger does not hide his colours for even a second here. And this is a weakness of the film because it is so heavily delivered that it is likely to put off the very sections of the audience that it should be looking to win over. At times it is so clearly leaning that even a liberal, middle-class white person like myself will feel like Pilger is standing 30cm from them, shouting and ranting for two hours. It is a shame because otherwise the material is really well put together, convincing and impacting. If Pilger had delivered this same material with a colder air of fact and journalistic detachment then the film might have done a better job of making non-liberals having their opinions changed or at least challenged.

    The film uses Chavez to put the topic in the present and make sure the viewer understands that this is not a history film but rather a relevant and topical documentary that draws on the past to back up the present. From here it takes us through Guatemala, Bolivia and so on and the case is built in such a way that it is hard to argue with the basic points made and accusations levelled. It is a very well researched film that I found fascinating throughout. I'm repeating myself here but again this is why it is frustrating to see Pilger take away from his own film by having the presentation subtlety of Michael Moore at his worst. His point is that the US preaches democracy but will go to bloody ends to remove any democratically elected Government that does not suit US interests; so in essence the crux of the film is "democracy" and he does not need to defend the people put in power but merely point to the fact that they were put in power by the people they represent by way of elections and people power. This point could have been made while still also recognising that Chavez, Morales etc are not perfect leaders. Instead of doing this, Pilger feels that having them be elected is not enough and so he presents them as near-perfect leaders who should be the ideal. This may well be his opinion but it is not the truth and by simplifying and spinning it is likely that he will lose viewers who ignore his message and assume that this liberal "nut" cannot be trusted.

    This is a real weakness in the film but it is still worth seeing if you can cope with it. The liberal "choir" will lap it up regardless, while those very much in the same camp as former CIA man Duane on the right will not even think of watching it. The material is strong enough to win over those in the middle but Pilger's presentation is so heavy and slanted that he risks losing viewers before the material gets to work. Well worth seeing and impacting stuff but while Pilger deserves credit for pulling it together as writer/director, his presentation and style is also a real liability.
  • I thought the scenes looked too set up for the camera. For example, the ladies learning to read and write. It seemed that thousands were missing out and only a few are getting any lessons 10 years into the Chavez regime. The shots of Pilger in the interview with the CIA guy - which are usually done when the interviewee has left the scene were really bad. Pilger used the shot of Chavez justifying why millions people live in barrios in such a rich country as "well they don't want to be millionaires - like Americans" and I was left thinking, Well if they educated them they might want more than what they have now" I couldn't see any advantages in sight for these people rely on populist dictators. It is no wonder they escape to Australia and America whenever they can. The film was basically a lot of anti-American slanging off with no hope of change, i.e. sharing the wealth, in store for the people. The countries in the film all go from one dictator to another much like Africa does these days since the end of colonialism and the people just survive. I would prefer to see a film on the subject made by a film maker from one of the countries mentioned. Pilger was very condescending, agreeing with anything the current dictator said. As it didn't include any comedy it only rates a 1 out of 10 from me.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The War on Democracy is a bit hard to follow, both because of some intense story and thanks to a somewhat confusing execution. The idea behind the work is that it is an examination of mostly-American backed efforts to undermine popular movements in nations throughout Latin America.

    It is no secret anywhere that the United States, like any major power in history, has intervened in foreign affairs in the name of its own national interests. In fact, Pilgir interviews a retired CIA agent who argues just that. The retired agent claims the USA did brutal things for what Washington would argue was a greater good. Many other individuals interviewed, especially those that suffered like an American nun who was tortured and raped by 1980's central American government squads, would argue that stability was and is not worth cruelty and death. Had Pilgir based his film on that argument and explored it much further (with more in-depth arguments on both sides), I would have doubled the number of stars despite his rather vocal and frankly preachy opinions and regardless of the the fact he delves no deeper in history than 1948. But he doesn't.

    Instead, Pilgir devotes the first half of his film to an overly rosy depiction of a modern politician, Hugo Chavez, and modern Caracas. After a while one may wonder of "South America" just means "Venezuela." Whether he is good or bad, Chavez is a modern politician and pushing him so hard so early does not help the film (a shorter explanation of the coup and counter-coup in 2002 would have worked better). Eventually, Pilgir does go into some history on American involvement in Guatemala and Chile, but hardly in any detail save for the tour of Pinochet's stadium turned torture chamber. He has a couple of very short and edited interviews cut against his own, much more explained, opinions. His perspective is inconsistent too. Chilean poor are written off because their government is friendly with the west, but Bolivian and Venezuelan poor are considered heroes because they are fighting the good fight against capitalism. Brazil, Argentina (which fought open war with Britain in the 1980s), Mexico (invaded by the USA in 1846, 1914, and 1916), and Colombia are all ignored save for ominous implications that the US supported non-democratic governments there at one time or another. There is no mention of historically vital points like the Monroe Doctrine and the Cold War is quickly dismissed as American paranoia. Even the still active and divisive issue of the drug wars is forgotten.

    Instead we get fuzzy camera lenses, a few sound bites from Fox News, quick cuts to what we are supposed to believe is either a brutal fascist scene (armed guys in fatigues) or an uplifting socialist one, heavy pull-on-heartstrings editing, and a frankly self-righteous and paternalistic tone that in some ways undermines the very people its trying to support by placing far more on their shoulders than they want or need. The poor of Latin America have been mistreated for centuries, by indigenous empires, Spain, Creole caudillos and juntas (which are common in Latin American History but never mentioned by Pilgir), Europe, and especially the USA, but I do not believe this film gives a good or even adequate account of that.
  • Marxist film-makers who take a public stand FOR democracy and freedom? Now I've seen it all.

    I've read "Das Kapital" and I haven't really found too many segments espousing the advantages of democratic rule.

    Why do they lie to us so? "But it's their job and their passion to lie to us", I keep having to remind myself. I sometimes forget that extremist Leftists are psychopaths, misfits, hypocrites, liars, and charlatans of the highest order. Also, they have no cheek: they will unashamedly pretend to defend all those things that they hate with a passion: freedom, democracy, and the truth.

    PRAVDA! "Offense is the best defense", must be this movie's credo. In other words: "let's blame the other side for what WE do - namely undermine democracy with out Marxist/liberal agenda - and that way we will look like the good guys, while the Republicans get labeled as freedom-hating tyrants".

    A simple but effective formula served to the brainwashed masses: "Those who wage war are BAD. Republicans start wars. Hence Republicans are BAD." Period. Populistic logic par excellance. No discussion over the nature of war, or why they get initiated, just mind-blowing illogic and fact-twisting.

    The Left are masters of deception. Like so many psychopathic movements and individuals. Some truly brilliant, corrupt minds work in their propaganda machine. Well done.
  • steny138-918-389687 February 2014
    This movie is a pile of dung. He doesn't have any references to any of the "facts" he is spewing from his mouth. I know from my life experience that some of the things he said are true but it's the rest that he fails to prove. Just like a Michael Moore documentary he has no actual evidence to back the claims, by the way Carl Deal helped produce this pile*. Yes the wars and conflicts that are highlighted in the movie did happen. The problem is that he mentions "secret" documents from the U.S. that implicate the united states. He does not mention where they came from, a place where we can cross reference these allegations or even a expert opinion from an impartial investigator. I am a liberal and can't even support this garbage for a second.

    Overall this movie has no right to be rated so high. If you try to read the critics reviews on this site you will see that most are taken down. I am sure they wrote a good review then realized they had made a mistake. Watch this movie for entertainment only.


    OW look at that, References!
  • "You are deeply committed to the Venezuela people. Where does that come from?"

    That is John Pilger's groveling question to Venezuelan THUG Hugo Chavez. A guy who disappeared opponents just like Argentine or Chilean dictators.

    Here is Pilger's take on the Putin's poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury on 4 March 2018: "This is a carefully constructed drama as part of the propaganda campaign that has been building now for several years in order to justify the actions of NATO, Britain and the United States, towards Russia. That's a fact".

    Pilger also makes racist statements for example calling Barack Obama an "Uncle Tom."