June 3, 2006

Chavez opens Venezuela studios to counter Hollywood

By Patrick Markey

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Lights, camera and ...

Signaling from a director's chair, Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez inaugurated a film studio complex on Saturday on
the outskirts of Caracas to counter the cultural "dictatorship"
of Hollywood movie giants.

"For Venezuela, action," Chavez called out as the cameras
rolled and a harp and guitar band strummed traditional folk
music on the set of a film in production.

Allied with Cuba and flush with oil cash, Chavez has
clashed with Washington as he pushes a socialist revolution to
rival U.S. influence. Top U.S. officials call him an oil-rich
autocrat threatening regional stability.

Chavez brands President George W. Bush a terrorist, attacks
U.S. free-market policies and derides American consumer
culture. He has even urged Venezuela children to ignore U.S.
heroes like Superman and forget Halloween celebrations.

Last year, he launched Telesur, a regional television news
station meant to compete with networks such as CNN. His critics
dismissed the channel as a vehicle for Venezuela to promote
Chavez's left-wing agenda overseas.

The Film Villa Foundation was opened with an investment of
$9 million for two studios that organizers hope will promote
the production of independent local and South American movies.

Chavez, a former soldier who says he is inspired by South
American independence hero Simon Bolivar, applauded local
filmmakers and urged them to work to counter the influence of
U.S. blockbusters.

"They inoculate us with messages that have nothing to do
with our traditions," Chavez said. "Hollywood sends a message
to the world that tries to sustain the so-called American way
of life and imperialism ... it's like a dictatorship."

Film Villa's first production is a series about Francisco
de Miranda, a leading figure in Venezuela's fight against
colonial Spain and one of Chavez's heroes.