Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2016 9:29 am 
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RAFAEL CORREA IN ON REVIENT DE LOIN

Tracking Rafael Correa, his followers and opposition

The full title of this French film, mostly shot in Ecuador, is On revient de loin: Opération Correa 2. It's the on-the-scene follow-up to the 2014 film Les ânes ont soif : Opération Correa 1/The donkeys are Thirsty: Operation Correa 1, in which the French documentary team covered Rafael Correa's tour of Europe and appearance at the Sorbonne, which, as they pointed out with annoyance, was studiously ignored by the mainstream French press including Le Monde diplomatique.

President of Ecuador since 2007, Correa is perhaps the most successful of the new leftist "pink tide" Latin American leaders who included Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Lula da Silva of Brazil, Evo Morales of Bolivia and himself, starting early in the millennium and giving way lately to a right wing backlash. Rejecting past West-dominated neoliberal policies, anti-austerity in economics, refusing to pay part of the public debt, reclaiming native resources from the multinationals, achieving clear improvements in health care, education, housing, and personal income, Correa has maintained high approval ratings in the country and abroad - though his populist brand of socialism not unlike that of the late Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, has not endeared him to the US.

Thanks to Correa's policy of redistribution, poverty and inequality have been sharply reduced while the middle class has doubled in size in eight years. Pierre Carles and Nina Faure and their team arrived fired up with enthusiasm in this new Eldorado, but encountered unrest and discord in the streets surrounding issues such as legalizing abortion, outlawing gas stoves in favor of induction ones, resettling indigenous people for a mining project, and instituting heavy taxation of the richest citizens - to which they listen with a sympathetic ear. On revient de loin, which is consciously self-reflective, studiously avoids hagiography and continually holds up ideas to be examined and criticized. The French review Telerama calls this a "dialectical" documentary. Libération says in its review the filmmakers "are forced to tone down their enthusiasm." The film not only closely follows views of some opponents of Correa but dramatizes the two directors' differences of point of view and sensibility. They also wind up with different conclusions, one ready to encourage Correa, who speaks French, to come to France and help run the country, the other coming to question the whole idea of a head of state who's some kind of "savior."

One can contrast this documentary, which has good access both to Correa and some of his strongest critics, both on the streets and in offices, with the drum-beating one for Hugo Chavez done by the Irish filmmakers Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (2003), which I bought into a bit too enthusiastically at the time. Chavez is gone and Venezuela is in a terrible mess.

Carles and Faure, who include several direct interviews with Correa, present a less glowing overall picture. They also don't have a blatant effort by enemies to overthrow Correa to cover, which understandably may have turned the Irish filmmakers into more Chavistas than they were already.

This film points out that you can't remake Ecuador's economy overnight; that Correa's redistributions have not fundamentally changed the system. The film, which has regular Skype dialogues between the team in country and directors back home, has a rough quality, the more so with unexpected demonstrations and hastily organized trips. The provisional feel is at least partly intentional as the jury is still out, and the film, and the regime, are works in progress. The downside is that by film's end, one has heard many arguments, but has little idea how things stand.

On revient de loin: operation Correa 2/Back from Afar: Operation Correa 2, in Spanish with French subtitles and in French, debuted 26 Oct. 2016 in France. Reviewed very favorably by 7 major journals (AlloCiné 3.8). Screened for this review at Espace Saint Michel, Pairs, 26 Oct.

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