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The War on Democracy

John Pilger reports that, in spite of a history of repeated US-backed suppression, popular democratic movements are gaining ground in Latin America.

A printer-friendly version of this page 94 minutes
Closed Captioned

Produced by Youngheart Entertainment
A film by John Pilger
Written, Directed and Reported by John Pilger
Directors of Photography: Preston Clothier, Rupert Binsley
Archive Producer: Carl Deal
Producer: Wayne Young
Executive Producer: Michael Watt
Editor: Joe Frost
Directed and Produced by Chris Martin

"One of the most powerful documentaries of the year...makes you look at the world in a new light." London Daily Mirror
NOTE TO ACTIVIST GROUPS: We are making this video available at a special price of $59 to activist groups. Please order under our Activists' Page. This gives you the right to show the film in public as long as no admission fee is charged. TV rights are NOT available.

In his second inaugural address, President Bush pledged to "bring democracy to the world". In a speech lasting 23 minutes, he mentioned the words 'democracy' and 'liberty' 21 times. Most of the world, it is fair to say, will have recoiled, many in fear...

Bush's speech was significant because it finally emptied noble concepts like 'democracy' of their true meaning - government, of, by and for the people. Never before have people in the west shown such disenchantment with the democracy they vote for and the version they get. Never before has most of humanity registered such alarm at the ambitions of a great power.

The War on Democracy demonstrates the brutal reality of the America's notion of 'spreading democracy'; that, in fact, America is actually conducting a war on democracy, and that true popular democracy is now more likely to be found among the poorest of Latin America whose grassroots movements are often ignored in the west.

John Pilger conducts an exclusive interview with President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Pilger also goes to the United States and in some remarkable interviews, speaks exclusively to US government officials who ran the CIA's war in Latin America in the 1980s. This reveals more about US policy than all the statements and postures of recent times; it also reveals how what's happened in Latin America is a metaphor for how the rest of the world is being "ordered."

The War on Democracy, however, is a hopeful film, for it sees the world not through the eyes of the powerful, but through the hopes and dreams and extraordinary actions of ordinary people. Although set mostly in Latin America, it is a metaphor for all the world.

The thrust of John Pilger's latest film is a constant theme in all his work: that great, rapacious power is far from invincible and that people power is enduring. Photaographed in high definition video, few films have been as timely as The War on Democracy.

Other films by John Pilger are Breaking the Silence, Stealing a Nation, New Rulers of the World, Palestine is Still the Issue, Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq, Inside Burma, and the four films in the Documentaries that Changed the World series: The Quiet Mutiny, Death of a Nation, Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia, and Do You Remember Vietnam?.

Note: THE WAR ON DEMOCRACY has been shown in theaters in several countries around the world, but it does not have a US theatrical distributor.

Grade Level: 10 - 12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2007     Copyright Date: 2007
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-751-5     VHS ISBN: 1-59458-750-7

"The War On Democracy is brilliant. John Pilger is the world's most important documentary film maker. He exposes the myths of U.S. empire, and also shows us the growing resistance to U.S. domination and neoliberalism. Pilger asks the bold questions that the establishment media have not asked, reminding us of the power of journalism and documentary film to help us understand the world -- and change it."
Anthony Arnove, author, Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal and (with Howard Zinn), Voices of a People's History of the United States

"The War on Democracy demonstrates the brutal reality of the America's notion of 'spreading democracy'; that, in fact, America is actually conducting a war on democracy, and that true popular democracy is now more likely to be found among the poorest of Latin America...This thought-provoking documentary will stir up some ideas and encourage politicians as well as the citizens who elect them to find a way to make significant social changes for the benefit of all classes...Recommended for university students who are interested in Latin American studies, Latin American history, culture, and political science."
Dana Ward, Anthropology Reviews Database

"This is a film that can provide important visual evidence that will set the story straight once and for all about the nature of the coup against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 2002. The sections on Chile and Guatemala, for example, were particularly enlightening. But it is Mr. Pilger's interview with Duane Clarridge, the chief of the CIA's Latin America division from 1981-1984, which is absolutely essential viewing. It is rare to capture on film a more honest, combative, and bone-chilling defense of the U.S. policy of destroying 'uncooperative' democracies abroad than Clarridge will provide."
Steven S. Volk, Department of History and Director, Center For Teaching Innovation and Excellence, Oberlin College

"John Pilger did an excellent job at pulling it all together and gives us a powerful resource that will help us understand what U.S. foreign policy is really about. I highly recommend it!"
Roy Bourgeois, Founder, School of Americas Watch

"A War on Democracy leads the viewer to confront U.S. Latin America policy head on. Pilger is a master guide through the maze that is Latin American history and the continuous attempts of the U.S. government to thwart democracy and exploit the people of Latin America. What Pilger does best is allow us to see that there is hope and ultimately the people of Latin America will be victorious."
Eric LeCompte, National Coordinator, School of Americas Watch

"John Pilger and his associates have a lot to answer for! They have dared to present harsh, stubborn facts about American foreign and national security policy in a period where we have been propagandized to avert our eyes from the multiple truths of things, events and conditions as they are. They have shown not only the arrogance, but also the stupidity of leaders and their advisors who deceive others and themselves. And finally, these American leaders seek to demean, damage, if not destroy the chances that the defenseless and the wretched have to teach us, the well heeled but deceived so that we will cease acting like heels, fools, and occupiers. This film is an important teaching tool that should be used at the college level and beyond, in commercial theaters, unions, and churches."
Marcus Raskin, co-Founder, Institute for Policy Studies, co-Author with Bob Spero, The Four Freedoms Under Siege: The Clear and Present Danger from Our National Security State

"An unsparing assault on US political hypocrisy in the Western Hemisphere. Nevertheless, if we can't rely on the world's greatest democracy to protect human rights in the Americas, John Pilger assures us there are lots of little people who are ready, willing and able to do so for themselves--whether the US likes it or not."
Dr. Timothy McGettigan, Professor of Sociology, Colorado State University, Pueblo

"Put[s] forth troubling views on contemporary American society and our place in the world...Presents a powerful picture of a people attempting to rise above injustice and take control of their future."
Library Journal

"Thoughtful and thought-provoking...Very highly recommended viewing for civil rights activists, political reformers, and the general public in this current political season,The War On Democracy is a welcome and necessary addition to academic and community library collections."
The Midwest Book Review

"It is to be applauded for its extensive interviewing, its selection of government officials (active and retired), and a host of witnesses to tragedies throughout Latin America, and unabashed critical analysis. Recommended."
Michael J. Coffta, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, Educational Media Reviews Online

"Perhaps the most poignant moment in John Pilger's latest documentary, The War on Democracy, comes during an interview with Sister Dianna Ortiz, the U.S. nun tortured by Guatemalan security forces in 1989. 'I've heard people say that what happened in Abu Ghraib is an isolated incident,' she says, with a mix of outrage and disbelief. 'And I just shake my head and say: Are we on the same planet? Aren't you aware of our history? Isn't history taught in the classroom about the role of the U.S. government in human rights violations?' The answer, of course, is no. And that is the film's raison d'etre: to tell the story of U.S.-sponsored terror in Latin America."
NACLA Report on the Americas

"You'll come away feeling angry, inspired, informed and thoroughly entertained...the strength of Pilger's absorbing and emotive film lies both in the broader context it provides and the dots it skilfully connects...The great struggle on the Latin American continent of the last 500 years is largely unknown in the West, it is an ongoing story of control, empire and resistance that Pilger has successfully captured at what could be a pivotal moment. * * * *"

"Extraordinary documentary. A fascinating look at the social and economic history of a continent which is frequently overlooked in the news. The United State's own notion of democracy comes across as positively Orwellian...[Pilger's] passion for the subject and dedicated research pay off superbly...[and] make for gripping viewing. A brilliantly-researched and sometimes shocking insight into the democratic position of those countries whose dealings with America are more along the lines of slave than political poodle.****"

"A necessary, provocative film from a daring filmmaker who has proven among the most insightful and accurate advocates in the world for truth."
Danny Glover

"Distressing but essential look at the US government's continued decimation of Latin America. Presented in his trademark forthright yet respectful style, this is much more than just a history lesson, it is also a beautifully shot account of hope. Pilger interviews everyone from Presidents to the poorest residents in this portrait of the haves and have nots."
London Daily Mirror

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DVDs include public performance rights.

DVD Features
Includes Spanish subtitled version, scene selection as well as two pdf files containing John Pilger's bio and 23-pages of production notes including a Q & A with John Pilger and an essay on Hugo Chavez by John Pilger.

The War on Democracy's web site
John Pilger's web site

Awards and Festivals
Best Documentary, One World Media Awards
Society for Visual Anthropology, American Anthropological Association, Film Festival
Vancouver International Film Festival
Durban International Film Festival
East End Film Festival
Tiburon International Film Festival
Chichester Film Festival
Olafest, Orlando Latin American Film & Heritage Festival
Washington DC International Film Festival
Amnesty International Film Festival, Vancouver
Artivist Film Festival, Los Angeles
Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival

American Studies
Central America/The Caribbean
Foreign Policy

Global Issues
Human Rights
Indigenous Peoples
International Studies
Latin American Studies
National Security
Political Science
Social Justice
Social Psychology
War and Peace

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... more Reviews

"The War on Democracy is a powerful piece. Respected journalist and documentarian John Pilger distinguishes himself from the current crop of high profile polemicists like Michael Moore due to his sheer body of work...[and] solid reportage...What is presented in The War on Democracy is a scary affirmation of one's worst fears with regard to the cheapness of human life at the expense of worldwide financial interests.****"
Film Review magazine

"Dynamic and emotionally effective...the passion and integrity of the polemic is never in doubt...and Pilger's assertions...are urgent and lucid.**** Film of the Week"
Time Out, London

"The War on Democracy is John Pilger's convincing account of America's shameful role in undermining people's heartfelt, sincere and often enlightening viewing."
The Observer, London

"It's not often that the audience claps at a film [critics'] screening (in fact, this is the first time I've experienced such emotion), however, this film is delivered with such skill and astonishing facts...that it's not at all surprising. A powerful and poignant story that allows us to understand the true nature of the so-called war on terrorism. Don't miss."
Southwark News

"Such concern with language and the media as instruments of dissimulating injustice or speaking the truth for the disenfranchised gives The War on Democracy a political force in the very wildest sense: it's little wonder that Harold Pinter praises Pilger."
Sight and Sound

"I have no hesitation in commending The War on Democracy...The stirring effect it has on audiences is bound to boost its chances in cinemas. It was enough to trigger a round of applause from the normally staid press audience I watched the film with... John Pilger continues in the tradition of the campaigning journalism of George Orwell."
The Big Issue, UK

"There is no doubting the force of the arguments here...this is a compelling documentary."
Radio Times

London Sunday Times

"Pilger does not try to be a comedian like Michael Moore...the truth of his story is plain enough."
The Guardian

"If you liked Fahrenheit 911, you'll like this. One of the most powerful documentaries of the year...makes you look at the world in a new light.****"
London Daily Mirror

"The War on Democracy is a great primer on Latin American politics...essential viewing: a compelling, deftly argued documentary which asks probing questions about modern democracy while setting the record straight on the US relationship with Latin America."

"[John Pilger's] documentaries inspired a generation of young people to take up the fight for global justice throughout the 1980s...It is a great to know that such a powerful documentary has made it to the big screen...You get goose bumps when you see how dirt poor people are prepared to take a stance... It's great stuff... dramatic in a cinematic way...The War on Democracy will leave you extremely angry with the world but in a positive way...A 'must see'."
Creative News Weekly

"Alarming and absolutely riveting."

"The War on Democracy sees John Pilger doing what he does best, and doing it at the absolute top of his game...See this film. The six o'clock news won't look the same after."
The Dominion Post, New Zealand

"The history of U.S. involvement in Latin America - while well-known to those of us who study the region - should be part of the basic curriculum in U.S. schools. Then maybe in mainstream America it will begin to be understood that it matters significantly more what the foreign policy of the candidate is than the candidate's bowling score. And maybe unnecessary wars that kill hundreds of thousands can be avoided."
Common Prejudice

"Interesting narrative in the recounting of various foreign policy strategies and mistakes of U.S. Latin America policy in the past fifty years."
Teaching Sociology

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