||Úna Ní Dhonghaíle
What would make you start a revolution?
It takes more than a Che Guevara t-shirt to be a revolutionary. It wasn’t branded images of rebellion that inspired Che – it was experiences traveling around in Latin America and Africa and observing the realities of rural poverty. The living conditions of the destitute convinced him that radical change was necessary. Today, billions of people still live in poverty, without access to adequate healthcare, clean water and food. The world’s ecosystems are under tremendous strain from human impact. Corruption and human rights violations still impact large parts of the human population. Is there a way to change these negative trends? Don’t say it’s a t-shirt. What would make you start a revolution?
ABOUT THIS FILM
Che Guevara died in Southern Bolivia while trying to ignite the sparks of revolution throughout South America. His death at the hands of Bolivian Rangers trained and financed by the US Government, marked the beginning of the cocaine era in Bolivia. Forty years later and under pressure from the masses who gave him a clear mandate, the first indigenous President Evo Morales (an ex-coca leaf farmer) is promising to continue the revolution. He has nationalised the oil industry and passed laws on Agrarian reform. Despite the revolutionary-sounding election speeches and campaign iconography that accompanied his landslide victory, on closer inspection it emerges that the old system is pretty much alive inside the new one. Corruption, nepotism and old-fashioned populism are at the core of this movement. The more Morales does to create employment, the more the landowners conspire against him and paralyse Bolivia’s economy. As a result, no jobs are created and the pressure from the poor increases. The cycle of tension threatens to crush both the country and the indigenous revolution. Looking for the Revolution is about the dynamics of that tension as witnessed by the characters of the film - the struggle for power between landowners and the indigenous movement, and the continuation of a revolution Morales-style, started so long ago.
RODRIGO VAZQUEZ has trained at the National Film and Television School in the UK where he qualified in both Director and Camera in Documentary Studies. He has also obtained a BA degree in Film Direction and Theory from the Universidad del Cine in Argentina and holds a Film Production Diploma from Argentina’s National Film School. As a director and cameraman, Rodgrigo has completed numerous feature films and documentaries including Condor: The Axis of Evil (2003) which had it’s world premier at the Cannes Film Festival. He has also directed documentaries for the UK’s Channel 4 including five for the channel’s acclaimed Unreported World Foreign Affairs series.
Running on a platform of socialist reform, Morales gained the overwhelming support of Bolivia’s indigenous farming class, and is now actively working to redistribute land and nationalize Bolivia’s vast natural resources. However, the new president’s moves towards nationalization have sparked complaints among the landowning, upper class (mostly of Spanish heritage), renewing tensions between the rich and the poor, white Bolivians and indigenous Bolivians. The question remains: How will Morales’ Bolivia be any different from the Bolivia of the past?
Bolivia, a landlocked country in South America, has a population of 8.2 million people. Approximately 50.6% of the population is indigenous (meaning pre-Columbus natives of the land), 30% mestizo (mixed Indian and white heritage), and 15% white (of mostly Spanish heritage). Bolivia was a Spanish colony until 1825 when it gained its independence, and was ruled by the land-owning white minority until 2005. Although rich in oil and with the second largest gas reserves on the continent, Bolivia is considered to be South America’s poorest country. The majority of Bolivians are subsistence farmers, miners, small time traders or artisans. White minority domination formally ended in 2005 when Morales, an indigenous former coca farmer, came to power.
The Political Scene
Bolivia has the largest indigenous population in South America, making up approximately two-thirds of Bolivia’s total population. Traditionally, the indigenous population have fallen into the poorest ranks of society, and make up the overwhelming majority of subsistence farmers and miners. They also account for the majority of rural dwellers living in the poorest conditions. Over the last ten years, Bolivia has seen much agitation from this sector of society, who has protested increasingly for the redistribution of wealth and the repossession of Bolivia’s natural resources, which the local population claim is too controlled by foreign entities. Hopes are now pinned on indigenous president Morales, a former coca farmer who has won the support of his people on the basis of making redistributing land and wealth to Bolivia’s poor.
In May 2006, Morales shocked the world and delighted his supporters by ordering the nationalization of Bolivia’s natural resources, requiring all foreign companies to be at least 51% owned by the state. The president has also promised to raise taxes on foreign mining companies as well as redistribute as much as one-fifth of Bolivia’s land to the peasant population.
Under the increasingly critical eye of the United States, Morales must also deal with anti-drug trafficking concerns as Bolivia’s coca farmers (who farm the leaf, coca, which is used to produce cocaine) routinely have their crops erased by American anti-drug forces, temporarily destroying their means for survival. The president, a former coca farmer himself, is against drugs, but has promised to relax restrictions on growing coca, as it remains the livelihood of thousands of Bolivians and, he argues, has many traditional and medicinal uses.