In the documentary Nicaragua: No Pasaran, David Bradbury has presented a biased impression of reality, and has used many techniques to present this reality to the viewer. The aim of the documentary is to cause the viewer to feel sympthatetic to the Sandanista’s and become distanced and “anti” towards the Americans. Both these two parties are portrayed very differently to achieve Bradbury’s desired viewer positionment.
The start of the documentary presents the Nicaraguan society with a community type spirit, giving off a festival type atmosphere. There is local-type music, and people present from all walks of life. They all seem to be happy, and the Sandanistan military is shown very briefly. Suddenly, this mood is juxtaposed with footage from a Nicaraguan mass funeral, which outlines the extreme differences in the Nicaraguan society. It becomes apparent that this conflict has political roots, and the viewer questions the motives of the enemy to the people at the funeral. The crowd is chanting “no pasaran” which translated means “no entry.” Later in the documentary, it becomes apparent that the Nicaraguan’s do not want American control of their county as a “puppet.” A low camera angle shot of a soldier is seen in a stance which indicated to the viewer that the Nicaraguan people would prefer to protest by passive means rather than by aggressive ones, but is prepared to fight if it is deemed necessary for their survival. Already, in these opening scenes, Bradbury has positioned the viewer to begin to feel sympathetic toward the Nicaraguan’s.
The featured leader in the documentary of the Sandanista’s and the Nicaraguan government is that of Thomas Borhes. This is done because Borhes is the one that the viewer can feel more sympathetic and supportive towards, because of what happened to him in the past. Plus, if they feel more sympathetic and supportive toward Borhes, then they can feel the same way (to) about the Nicaraguans as a whole. Borhes shares his duty to govern Nicaragua with nine other people, and this is seen as very fair and democratic. He si seen as a “man of the community,” during shots of him milling with the general populace. A re-enactment is staged which portrays Borhes in a prison cell, where he was treated barbarically. But, even so, Borhes states that he felt sorry for his captors, even though he remembers describing them as “beasts.” Such a statement creates more support from the viewer. Why? Explain. Also the detail selected only shows the undesirable things that have happened to Borhes (which collect sympathy and support), but not the undesirable things Borhes has dished out to other people (which would easily disperse the support). Such careful selection of detail helps create Bradbury’s impression of reality. Furthermore, Borhes is put across as a martyr, How is this done! for detail presented to the viewer makes out that he sacrificed himself for the good of the cause, in this case, for the good of the revolution to overthrow Somoza. Some of Borhes’ characteristic traits which can then be gathered show an honesty and loyalty toward Nicaragua and its people.
The same stance used on Borhes is also (true) used for the Sandanistan military. They (are very) constructed as being humanistic. Shots of these are seen as the first presented montage; they eat food, they listen to music, and they almost seem to be having leisurely fun. One quick shot of a soldier “playing” his rifle as a guitar creates the feeling that the rifle would only be used of needed in defence. Guitars are harmless; playing a rifle as a guitar tends to support the Sandanistan and Nicaraguan belief of passive protest in defence of their country. Also a shot of the soldiers sharing the scene at a river with a woman who is washing her hair reinforces how the Sandanistan forces are friendly, non-threatening, unintrusive, and not aggressive. This reflects upon the whole of Nicaragua in the same way, and the viewer is further positioned in an impressionistic reality. While the Sandanistan forces are seen in this passive way, their enemies are not.
The National Guard is (then) portrayed, with great use of Juxtapositionment. They are not (seen) as humanistic at all, rather more mechanical and automated, melded together as one. The troops faces are camouflaged. They all look the same. They are shown in columns, and look to be very professional(. They look) and dangerous. Because of this presented detail, the viewer distances themselves from the danger – the National Guard. It’s a normal human reaction, something is dangerous, you move away from it. Bradbury has used this fact to his advantage, and used this selection of detail very carefully in viewer positionment of sympathy Wording is a bit clumsy. and support of the Nicaraguan state of affairs. Also, in the detail the National Guard is seen to have strong links to the United States, reinforced by an extreme close-up of what is presumed to be a National Guard belt with “US” stamped on it. In doing this, Bradbury has embedded the idea of being unsupportive of not only the National Guard, but the United States as well, in the viewer.
The Contras are also brought across to be the same way as the National Guard. Along with the National Guard, the Contras appear controlled by the United States. They receive supplies from them, and these are shown liberally, such as the heavy weaponry. Contrast this with the light armaments shown to be used by the Sandanistas, and this seems an unfair match. This reflects upon the United States as an aggressive and unfair empire. The documentary shows a demolished bridge, and the Contras are put to the blame. The bridge was an important transfer link for Nicaraguan villagers. An interview follows of some peasants, a husband, his wife and their baby. To the viewer they seem innocent and defenceless. They live in poverty and it is revealed that all they did was support the Sandanistan ideology. This sets up the Contras further as selfish, uncaring and ignorant. Because the United States supports the Contras, this connects the brutal persecutions of the innocent by the long hand of United States influence. But why is the United States so interested in crushing the Sandanistan “threat?”
The reason is established in a press conference footage reel of president Reagan stating that the United States is only interested in the Nicaraguan state of affairs because it is so close to a major United States trading route, the Panama Canal. Immediately, the viewer is thinking just how ignorant and selfish the United States appears to be. For this reason, Reagan can be represented as the president of capitalism. He does not consider Nicaragua as an actual country. During the Reagan speech, Bradbury presents a map of the whole of North and South America, from Cape York to northern Canada. It zooms in to show Nicaragua, emphasising how small and surrounded it is. Truly, the United States only occupies a much smaller amount of land, but has been exaggerated in this way to give the impression that Nicaragua is being crushed, which causes sympathy from the viewer.
Before the final montage, Bradbury shows footage of Reagan making a statement in congress that Bradbury, through a selection of detail, (has just) is able to prov(ed) otherwise! The impression of reality has been consolidated, and the viewer sees the United States as extremely deceitful, aggressive and untrustworthy.
The final montage opening scene is that of a church with the sounds of victorious singing, symbolising the momentary victory of Nicaragua. But a plane quickly looms in from the background, and the sounds of the church choir is crossfaded and replaced with a very mechanical sound, which symbolises the mechanist United States. Lyrics, “here come the planes, they’re American planes, made in America,” sets up the fact that the plane in the shot is American. The United States, after all, have succeeded in control of Nicaragua. The “Honduras military buildup” is shown, and only of machinery. This mechanical montage ? includes stills of innocent Nicaraguan people, especially those of older people and children. It created the impression to the viewer that the target of the United States is the innocent Nicaraguan people.
Through Nicaragua: No Pasaran David Bradbury has succeeded in creating a biased impression of reality, using codes and conventions similar to those in many print texts. He has positioned the viewer to feel supportive of the friendly Nicaraguans, and to become distanced from the deadly influence of the American capitalist society.