NEW FILM : "Venezuela : it concerns the future of all us"

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It concerns the future of all of us"

Interview of Vanessa Stojilkovic
about her new film "Brussels-Caracas"


Why was it important to make a movie about Venezuela?
Vanessa. Because extraordinary things are taking place there. All those
visiting this country are thrilled to bits. In Europe, by contrast, we are
confronted by pessimism and fatalism in the vein of "We cannot change
anything". We see poverty gaining ground. Few victories.
	 And in Venezuela, we have people who are setting out to change the
situation in their country, who are achieving so many things. And our
Western media say hardly anything, broadcasting instead the distorted image
of some kind of dictatorship. Might they have an interest in hiding from us
what is happening there, and even in demonizing it?
One must remember that although Venezuela is, since 80 years, one of the
leading oil exporters, 60% of Venezuelans live below the poverty line. This
is huge. For once that a people reestablishes its right to avail itself of
its natural resources, it is worth the while to take a close-up look.

Might Venezuela be perceived as a thorn in the side?
Vanessa. Of course, because of the oil. Here we have a country where
natural resources serve the people, and no longer multinational companies.
For some, this is the world upside down! As a matter of fact, there, as one
student said to me: "Now, the pyramid has been inverted so that everyone
would have rights."

How exactly did the idea behind this film dawn on you?
Vanessa. By accident. I had heard a lot about Venezuela, and I had the
opportunity to travel there. Well, I didn't want to arrive empty-handed. It
so happened that in Brussels, I had just directed a few brief videos of
mini street polls to find out what people thought of Bush, Iraq,
Europe....So, I told myself: "I am going to bring them a small
contribution: What do the people here think of Venezuela, what information
have they received, what questions do they ask themselves?" I told myself
that it would be useful for them to know how Venezuela is perceived here...

How did the Belgians view Venezuela?
Vanessa. Like for all Europeans, I reckon, it turned out that a segment of
the people was quite manipulated by what they had heard in the media.
Having said that, almost everyone was very open and full of curiosity.
However, pessimistic as well. They did not believe this. The notion that a
people can have its own say, have a different relation with its government,
with politics, such an idea here seems impossible, utopian!

And over there?
Vanessa. Once I arrived in Venezuela, I encountered a revolution. It is a
country where people are enthusiastic; they believe in it, they are
accomplishing a lot of things; they are taking charge of things. This takes
you by surprise, having just previously heard all of the European
pessimism. And yet, it was still ten years ago that the Venezuelans also
did not believe in politics anymore, thinking that nothing will ever
change, that everyone was too individualistic to club together and change
I was able to take note of the Venezuelans' high level of
consciousness...Whether it be about the media, the social system, politics
in general, the role of the superpowers...What is necessary, if a people
wants to get rid of poverty, is to begin by understanding where it is
coming from. And they figured it out! Well, when we hear them, we want that
here too, we could benefit from their experiences! So, I went to Caracas
and got the Venezuelans to talk. So that they would answer the questions
that the Belgians were asking themselves - and all the Europeans, I believe
- concerning Venezuela.

In short, a sort of ping pong between the people...
Vanessa. Yes, and I believe that we would understand one another much
better if there was even more direct communication between the different
peoples. However, not all of us can go there; so, I did the inverse: I
brought back Venezuelan remarks, real-life experiences, emotions, hope,
concerns...A bit of the Bolivarian Revolution, in fact. To come out of the
stereotypes and biases dictated by our mass media.

Are people's lives really improving?
Vanessa. Yes, they are changing, there is a lot of movement! Chavez has
therefore restored the country's control over these resources (which
previously went into the coffers of multinational corporations and a few
privileged persons, the country receiving almost nothing). This measure
enabled the realization of what they call "misiones". Reforms: education,
food, health, work, housing. Which are already improving and will still
improve the lives of people. Picture, in Latin America, extremely
disadvantaged neighborhoods and shantytowns in which there are now "soup
kitchens" serving free meals, "working-class clinics" with healthcare that
is free of charge and of excellent quality, cooperatives that are creating
jobs without bosses, for example in construction.

And yet, a coup d'etat (unsuccessful) took place. Not everyone is happy?
Vanessa. The majority is content: the poor. A minority is absolutely
furious and tries by all possible means to overthrow Chavez. The private
media rail at him.
Nevertheless, in every election, Chavez wins by even more votes. Even
people who, at the beginning, did not vote for him, have changed their
mind. He has given once again meaning to the people - State relationship.
The people have reinserted themselves into a political activity, having
seen that things can change.
We find the discontented ones mainly in the rich neighborhoods. Their
discourse is hollow. For them, "There is less democracy than before", "He's
a dictator", "Yes, maybe Chavez will feed them and provide them with
doctors..." But apparently, this is not what the Latin American expect from
a president!

Might it be that our media here convey solely the viewpoint of Venezuela's
rich elite?
Vanessa. Absolutely! They skip over the majority.

Here, the media usually portray Chavez as a populist and authoritarian
leader. Is Venezuela democratic?
Vanessa. Actually, some of the Brussels residents I interviewed told me
that they considered Chavez to be a populist dictator. In Venezuela, I
heard the two versions. "Authoritarian dictatorship", the minority told me.
"Super-democracy, at last, whereas before, it was a dictatorship disguised
as a democracy", the majority told me. Finally, in Venezuela, it's plain to
see that the opinion one has on this issue certainly depends on the social
class to which one belongs.
When you are there, you hear that in fact, the majority of the population
considers that it enjoys the best-quality democracy. What they call a
"participatory democracy".

What does that mean?
Vanessa. In a participatory democracy, the people take part in the
decisions that affect them. If the country's wealth is to belong to the
people, it must also be up to them to decide, every day, how it is to be
utilized. The government places at the people's disposal the means to carry
out concrete projects within the communities. And it is people from the
rank and file, not the government, that have to take control of things and
decide on the practical choices, on the priorities, on how to build
awareness, and all of this with the help of the PDVSA, the public oil

"Representative", "participatory": Is the distinction important?
Vanessa. Yes, very much so. In the movie, several witnesses explain well
how it was before in Venezuela, under a representative democracy. And
basically, it was the same as here in Europe: We vote every four or five
years, and then, the elected representatives do not consult the people, and
they pass laws which they had never talked about and of which no one wants:
Bolkestein, first-hire contract (CPE)...We have seen plenty of examples in
recent years. We only know too well this type of "representative" and
elitist democracy.

Precisely, how are the elected officials kept in check?
Vanessa. To start with, they passed a very straightforward measure: The
Constitution provides the electorate with the possibility of requesting a
revocatory referendum at mid-term for any elected representative. Even the
president. This already represents an excellent control.

During a private showing, in a sneak preview, someone said: "This film is
beautiful because it shows the hope of people, their life changing. And it
gives more hope to us as well: we can continue to fight and obtain
something!" The Venezuelans' enthusiasm seems infectious...
Vanessa. Yes, I believe so. It's a lovely compliment.

What hopes do you have for your film?
Vanessa. Above all, I hope that it will become for everyone an instrument
that they can broadcast as much as possible around them. First, one has to
realize that Venezuela is substantially menaced by Bush. We know that Chile
and Nicaragua saw their hopes brutally shattered by the United States. We
must absolutely protect Venezuela against aggression. Because this country
is an important experience to resolve the problems of poverty in the third
world. There are many rich countries whose population is poor...

In this Latin America which is changing so much, is Chavez the exception or
a beacon?
Vanessa. A beacon, yes. All of Latin America is looking his way. If they
could vote for him in other countries, I think he would have the majority.
Besides, if we want to understand the problems faced by Bolivia, Colombia,
Peru and all of Latin America, we would be well-advised to understand
In fact, the problem of Latin America exists everywhere. It is a world
record gap between rich and poor. The consequence of colonial plundering,
then of pillage by the multinational corporations. There, the "Chavez
Solution" concerns the entire continent!
But when I speak of poverty in the world, I also think of the oil-rich Arab
countries, as well as of the African nations: they too are victims of
looting of their wealth. I think of Mali, I think of the Congo...Could it
be that it is precisely because of this that Bush attacks Venezuela? And it
is a great pity that our media do not explain the root of this problem.

To defend Venezuela is to defend the right to an alternative?
Vanessa. Yes, I really believe that it is also protecting our own future
and not only that of the third world. What Venezuela proposes is applicable
everywhere. It is not just an oil issue. The main question is: "At whose
service do you want to run a country's economy?"
Yes, it concerns all of us. There, in fact, they are experimenting,
experiencing a solution which we are going to need. It might be necessary
perhaps to await the day that poor people make up 60% of Europe, I don't
know, but in any case, it is imperative that we champion their experience,
learn from them, think of our own future.

How do we inform others of this experience?
Vanessa. In widely broadcasting Brussels-Caracas. A movie is an ideal tool
for widely stimulating the debate. Many individuals at a time see it; it
promotes discussion and the opportunity of creating joint initiatives. On
the one hand, we are organizing showings-debates in France, Belgium,
Switzerland, Spain, Holland. Other countries will follow because the movie
is or will be translated in six or seven languages (French, Spanish, Dutch,
English, Arabic we hope, etc.) We are also working with Internet, to spread
information, articles... since people are asking many questions on Chavez,
the U.S., Latin America...It is in being widely broadcasted that this movie
will prove to be useful. Which will also enable us to have a budget for
broadcasting it in the third world.

And directing other movies?
Vanessa. Yes, there are plans. And everything will be possible if we too,
like the Venezuelans, succeed in getting organized.

Thank you and wishing you every success for this film!

TO ORDER THE DVD (10 Euros),
contact the author or plan activities:
nessa.kovic at

or reply to this email at michel.collon at