‘The War on Democracy’ is John Pilger’s first major film for the cinema – in a career that has produced more than 55 television documentaries. Set in Latin America and the US, it explores the historic and current relationship of Washington with countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Chile.
“The film tells a universal story,” says Pilger, “analysing and revealing, through vivid testimony, the story of great power behind its venerable myths. It allows us to understand the true nature of the so-called war on terror”
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More about the film
Using archive footage sourced by Michael Moore’s archivist Carl Deal, the film shows how serial US intervention, overt and covert, has toppled a series of legitimate governments in the region since the 1950s. The democratically elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende, for example, was ousted by a US backed coup in 1973 and replaced by the military dictatorship of General Pinochet. Guatemala, Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador have all been invaded by the United States.
John Pilger interviews several ex-CIA agents who took part in secret campaigns against democratic countries in the region. He investigates the School of the Americas in the US state of Georgia, where Pinochet’s torture squads were trained along with tyrants and death squad leaders in Haiti, El Salvador, Brazil and Argentina.
The film unearths the real story behind the attempted overthrow of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez in 2002 and how the people of the barrios of Caracas rose up to force his return to power.
It also looks at the wider rise of populist governments across South America lead by indigenous leaders intent on loosening the shackles of Washington and a fairer redistribution of the continent’s natural wealth.
John Pilger says: “[The film] is about the struggle of people to free themselves from a modern form of slavery”. These people, he says, “describe a world not as American presidents like to see it as useful or expendable, they describe the power of courage and humanity among people with next to nothing. They reclaim noble words like democracy, freedom, liberation, justice, and in doing so they are defending the most basic human rights of all of us in a war being waged against all of us.”
‘The War On Democracy’ won the Best Documentary Award at the 2008 One World Awards.
The panel’s citation read: “There are six criteria the judges are asked to use to select the winner of this award: the film’s impact on public opinion, its appeal to a wide audience, its inclusion of voices from the developing world, its high journalistic or production standards, its success in conveying the impact of the actions of the world’s rich on the lives of the poor and the extent to which it draws attention to possible solutions. One film met every one of these. It was the winner of the award: John Pilger’s ‘The War on Democracy’.”
Read John Pilger’s article about the making of ‘The War On Democracy’ which appeared in the Guardian in June 2007.