Our Brand is Crisis
Democracy for sale: This documentary shows how a progressive leader in Bolivia can be as marketable as Ronald Macdonald.
Inside every teenage girl there's a fountain
Inside every young pair of pants there's a mountain
Inside every mother's eyes is Tommy Tinkrem's bed
Inside every candidate waits a grateful dead
“Candidate”, David Bowie
Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, better known as “Goni”, was president of Bolivia between 1993 and 1997. In 2002 he is campaigning again. He takes his private jet and flies to a rural locality in order to participate in a support rally. The local leaders give speeches in his honour, while young local ladies dance to folk music, dressed in pink as almost everyone else is. Pink is the “fresh” official color of the candidate. Finally, the great moment arrives, Goni gives his speech: “The main problem in Bolivia is the economical crisis... yes, we can go out to the crisis!” People get excited, yes the crisis is really bad: “viva Goni”.
The scene seems to be similar to any political contest in Latin America, but there is one big difference. Everything has been planned by an American consulting group that Goni has hired. The experts from Greenberg, Carville and Shrum go from Washington DC to La Paz analysing reams of data about the country and the conclusion is strong: “Our advertisement has to fit the frame, and our frame, our brand, is crisis”. The pollsters conduct a lot of focus groups in order to understand what people want in a president. They carefully analyse the strategies of the other candidates and plan aggressive attacks on them. The core of the documentary is to follow step by step how the campaign is modelled by these “experts”, who resemble the classic enthusiastic and pseudo creative American business man - a deep contrast with the Bolivian indigenous population they claim to interpret.
What is wrong with this? Politics is always a dirty business, and all the candidates hire external specialists for their campaigns. But the images that Rachel Boynton offers us are frankly repulsive, to see this guys displaying their marketing in order to decide the future of a country is beyond the pale. They are dangerous; they are too good at their work. They can manage to install any clown as a head of a State. Who has the money to pay them? Only the rich elites who have kept the power in many poor countries and now have to deal with tedious free elections that are observed by Jimmy Carter. In the old days they could just offer a live chicken for a ballot. Nowadays they have to convince the people with propaganda.
The air can be cut with a knife. Everybody is perspiring. The consultants loosen their ties while following the evolution of prices on the stock market… sorry… the first results of the election. Happiness!!!: Manfred Rey 20.8%, Evo Morales 20.9%, Goni 22.5%. Great victory! There is no second round in the Bolivian electoral system. Time for the marketing geniuses to go home? No, they stay in order to support the brand-new president. They keep doing their focus groups but now fail to understand why people are so angry. They are not just selling the brand crisis anymore, but influencing the politics that create the crisis. Why do people man the barricades to protest against the rise in the taxes? The smart lady from Harvard is afraid because complete anarchy reigns in the streets. Eventually, one year after the election, the team of consultants has to flee back to Washington. Goni goes with them.
Official Name: “Our Brand is Crisis”
Director: Rachel Boynton
Year released: 2005
Length: 85 minutes (aprox.)