Sunday, November 17, 2013

Paco Vásquez' progressive broadside THE GREAT FALLACY: The Milking of the Puerto Rican Colony

The first thing that should probably pop into the minds of progressive viewers watching the new documentary from Paco Vásquez (he wrote, directed, co-shot and co-edited it) -- THE GREAT FALLACY: The Milking of the Puerto Rican Colony -- is how utterly similar what has and is happening in Puerto Rico is to what has and continues to happen here in the rest of the U.S. (P.R. being a kind of colony, legally an unincorporated territory, of the U.S.A.). The complaints registered by the working class populace -- how money from the wealthy and the corporations control elections, after which the wealthy and those corporations rule by proxy via lobbyists and bought-off politicians. Sound familiar? It should.

As Senor Vásquez shows us (the film-maker appears at right, below and at bottom--because I could not find enough usable stills from this film), all this seems to happen more quickly and "efficiently" in Puerto Rico, and although the details are somewhat different from that in the greater United States, they are, as we see, quite worth learning via this informa-tive film.

From a kind of "gag order" on lawyers to the dis-empowerment and then sacking of a representative for the elderly, the documentary offers up example after example of how the powerful maintain their hold, right down to the manner in which -- following the sordid and stupid examples of Europe, Britain and Ireland -- in bad economic times the government is made to tighten the country's belt so that the poor and middle class suffer most and pay for the continuing sins of the wealthy. After which, of course, the economic crisis -- instead of getting better, as the right-wing always promises -- simply grows worse. In the case of Puerto Rico, the economy collapsed.

"I could never understand why I had to pay for their crisis," notes one incensed citizen. Which does make one wonder why we are all not asking this question, then kicking the bums from power and electing those who would work for real change. Of course, we cannot do this, thanks both here and in Puerto Rico to a compromised judicial system that stacks the deck completely against this ever happening (turns out the "colony" has its own version of Citizens United.)

Via a number of talking heads (one of whom appears above) we learn a lot of facts and the reasons for them. We also get some much-needed history of the island's first elected governor, Luis Muñoz Marín, whom you might call the Sam Yorty of Puerto Rico, as he destroyed the island's public transit system for the good of the automobile lobby.

Once the doc gets into the question of what the public can do about all its troubles and turmoil, the movie becomes a little more difficult to swallow, as it takes on everything from better eating and how Monsanto is destroying this to creating hard-and-fast activists out of its audience. I applaud this, by the way; I just don't think it is quite as easy as Vásquez imagines it to be.

The final fifteen minutes of the film, in fact, could almost be seen as filler: first a section devoted to showing us how beautiful and relatively unspoiled is this lovely island, and then the final and hugely drawn-out end-credit sequence that takes up ten full minutes of our time. Clearly someone wanted to extend the movie to its current 86-minute, feature-length running time.

The Great Fallacy, from Jibaro Media Group, and So Be It Films, opened this past Friday in New York City -- not coincidentally the home-away-from-home of quite a lot of Puerto Ricans -- at the Quad Cinema.  I hope it plays elsewhere around the country because much of what it has to say is timely and very important.

(That's Senor Vásquez, above, accepting his award for Best Spanish Language Film at this year's 8th Annual Sunscreen Film Festival, Florida, held April 18-21, 2013.)

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