It’s socialism v. capitalism, north v. south, Hugo Chávez v. Hugo Chávez — at least on the small screen.
Cash-strapped Venezuela announced this week that it’s making a movie and a television series based on the life of late President Chávez to compete against commercial projects already in the works.
In May, California-based Sony Pictures Television said it was making “El Comandante,” a series based on the controversial leader who succumbed to cancer in 2013. The starring role in the Spanish-language production has gone to Andres Parra, who’s best known for playing Colombian cocaine don Pablo Escobar in the series “El Patron del Mal.”
“No trans-national is going to come here and disfigure our Commander Hugo Chávez,” President Nicolás Maduro said Wednesday. “We’re going to put together a team of filmmakers, writers, script-writers, historians — a good team.”
Speaking at the launch of a Chávez biography, Maduro said he wanted the twin biopics done as soon as possible.
“We want this now,” he said, “by tomorrow.”
Chávez’s life makes for good movie fodder. Growing up in a poor rural area, he rose through the ranks of the military and led a failed coup in 1992 only to win the presidency in 1999. When he died in power in 2013, from an undisclosed form of cancer, Maduro suggested El Comandante’s enemies (including the United States) might have “inoculated” him with the disease.
Chávez is still idolized by many and there have been university courses crafted and plays composed in his honor. Others, however, blame his trademark “21st Century Socialism” for leaving the once-rich nation in economic shambles.
“It’s outrageous,” Maduro said of the competing television production. “Those abusers are making a film about Hugo Chávez. And I know why … because they know the impact that Chávez has had on the 21st century.”
Maduro could use some distractions. Falling oil revenue in a country addicted to crude exports has led to shortages of food and medicine. Malnutrition and hunger are on the rise. And the opposition is holding a massive rally on Sept. 1 in hopes of pushing Maduro out via a referendum.
Under the circumstances, it’s unclear how the administration will finance the project. Tune in to find out.