Dario Azzellini & Oliver Ressler: Comuna Under Construction (Film)

Comuna Under Construction | Comuna im Aufbau | Comuna en construcción  
A Film by Dario Azzellini & Oliver Ressler
94 min., 2010

First screenings:

Sala de Batalla Alicia Benitez, Petare (eje de Maca), Caracas (VEN), 18.01., 18:00 (with Dario Azzellini)

Bluestockings, New York (USA), February 1, 7 pm  (with Oliver Ressler) http://bluestockings.com

SEIU Local 1199, 310 West 43rd Street Auditorium (organized by Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle), New York (USA), February 2, 7 pm  (with Oliver Ressler) www.1199seiu.org

In addition, on February 3, 7:30 pm, Oliver Ressler’s film “What Is Democracy?” can be seen at 16 Beaver, New York; www.16beavergroup.org

Lichtblick-Kino, Berlin (D), starting 04.02.10 (exact times can soon be found at www.lichtblick-kino.org)

Check out the film online at:


“We have to decide for ourselves what we want. We are the ones who know about our needs and what is happening in our community”, Omayra Peréz explains confidently. She wants to convince her community, located on the hillside of the poor districts of Caracas, to found a Consejo Comunal (community council). In more than 30.000 Consejos Comunales the Venezuelan inhabitants decide on their concerns collectively via assemblies. Omayra is supported by the activists of the nearby shantytown “Emiliano Hernández”, which has had a Consejo Comunal for three years already. The inhabitants there managed to get a doctor from the governmental program “Barrio Adentro”, who treats everyone free of charge. They also got money to renovate their houses and replaced over a dozen of sheet iron huts by new houses. All of these activities and a lot more have been organized via the Consejo Comunal. By local self-organization from below several working groups have been established on self-decided topics and decisions are made in assemblies.

Several Consejos Comunales can form a Comuna and finally a communal town. The film “Comuna Under Construction” follows these developments throughout the hillside of the shantytowns of Caracas and the vast and wet plains of Barinas in the countryside. The councils are built from below and alongside the existing institutions and are supposed to overcome the existing state through self-government. In an assembly for the construction of the communal town “Antonio José de Sucre” Ramon Virigay from the independent peasant’s organization Frente Nacional Campesino Ezequiel Zamora (FNCEZ) reminds the delegates of the participating Consejos Comunales: “Even if we definitely need the government agencies at the moment, we have to be independent tomorrow due to our development. We cannot depend solely on the state forever.” For this reason the councils are to establish own structures of production and distribution in order to achieve autonomy.

The assemblies are a central element of the film “Comuna Under Construction”. The film starts off in the well organized Consejo Comunal Emiliano Hernández located in one of the shantytowns of Caracas. It then shows the intentions of forming Comunas and a communal town in rural Barinas and ends in Petare, a gigantic shantytown of the agglomeration of Caracas where there are 29 Consejos Comunales intending to build the Comuna of Maca.

Is it even possible to bring together state and autonomy? Every one of the Consejos Comunales spokes-persons has positive as well as negative experiences with the institutions in store to talk about. In an assembly in Petare the grass-roots activist Yusmeli Patiño blames a high government representative: “We are losing our credibility because of the incompetence of the state institutions”. But there are also members of the institutions who make a big effort to accompany the basis in making its own decisions. The relation between the basis and the institutions is marked by cooperation as well as conflict. But the Consejos Comunales also have internal difficulties; participation has to be learned.

Progresses as well as setbacks mark the difficult process of people actually taking the power of deciding on their own lives and environment by themselves.

Original Spanish version with German and English subtitles available.

Concept, film editing, production: Dario Azzellini & Oliver Ressler
Camera: Volkmar Geiblinger, Oliver Ressler
Sound, sound editing, supervisory editor: Rudi Gottsberger
Production assistant: Adriana Rivas
Image editing: Markus Koessl, David Grohe

Grants: Bundesministerium für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur; Kulturabteilung der Stadt Wien; Stiftung Umverteilen; Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung; Solifond der Hans Böckler Stiftung; Fraktion die Linke im EU-Parlament; Bundestagsfraktion die Linke; Netzwerk e.V.

Information & Contacts: www.azzellini.net | www.ressler.at


Filed under film and video, urban movements (right to the city)

2 responses to “Dario Azzellini & Oliver Ressler: Comuna Under Construction (Film)

  1. groove68

    Watch other films by Oliver Ressler and Dario Azzelini


  2. gilbert g. gonzalez

    Subject: please distribute
    X-Attachments: D:\User\gggonzal\My Documents\Flyer Soldiers in the Fields47.doc;

    Harvest of Loneliness: The Bracero Program
    Gilbert G. Gonzalez and Vivian Price, Co-Directors, Adrian Salinas, Editor, Xochitl Gonzalez, Assistant Editor

    Hidden within the historical accounts of minorities, workers and immigrants in American society is the story of the millions of Mexico’s men and women who experienced the temporary contract worker program known as the Bracero Program. Established to replace an alleged wartime labor shortage, research reveals that the Program intended to undermine farmworker unionization. Harvest shows how several million men, in one of the largest state managed migrations in history, were imported from 1942 to 1964 to work as cheap, controlled and disposable workers. The documentary features the men speaking of their experiences and addresses what to expect from a new temporary contract worker program

    “They’d get us up at four in the morning…then a truck arrived to take us to the fields. They’d put a bucket of water at each end of the field trench and we couldn’t drink water until we finished hoeing the trench. And you couldn’t rest, if you did they get after you. And that was everyday.” Alfredo Gutierrez, El Modena, California

    Harvest also centers the voices of wives and families who were left behind as an untold number of villages were virtually emptied of men. Villages were forced to adjust as they supplied workers for the largest US agricultural corporations. As the villages emptied of men who left to be contracted (successfully or not), wives and families, not knowing if or when they would return or where they were going to work, were deeply distressed. Family separation became an ongoing periodic experience for many villages, and for many the separation became permanent. Many speak of wives/mothers crying at night, hiding their loneliness and sadness from their children. Over the 22 years of the Bracero Program the economy and living standards of the villages remained virtually unchanged

    “We stayed with our families alone, with the animals, with the little that we had to work the fields instead of the men in order to survive. Well, we felt very sad and alone… we suffered a lot.” Hilaria Garcia G., Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

    Your contribution will help provide the needed funds to complete the editing of the documentary. The trailer can be seen at http://vimeo.com/2904353 (Produced by Gilbert Gonzalez, UC Irvine; edited by Carla Gutierrez; title has been changed). All contributions should be made out in checks payable to our fiscal sponsor:

    Fund for Labor Culture and History, I.D. No. 94 3371542 (501 ( c ) 3)
    Send to:
    Fund for Labor Culture and History
    224 Caselli Avenue,
    San Francisco, CA 94114

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