Shot in Nicaragua in late 2002 and early 2003, THE WORLD STOPPED WATCHING is a sequel to the award winning documentary film ‘The World Is Watching’ (1987) – a cinema verit’ examination of foreign news coverage of a climactic moment in the US-financed Contra war against Nicaragua’s revolutionary government.
Fifteen years later, filmmakers Peter Raymont and Harold Crooks return to Nicaragua with two American journalists who were in the original film – and
a Canadian journalist from La Presse – to discover what became of the first revolution to be conducted in the glare of the world media. They question the role and responsibility of journalists and their employers who first put Nicaraguans under the microscope, and then rushed off to the next hot spot.
Travelling throughout the impoverished country, we encounter Nicaraguans from every level of society: from Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega to an 82-year-old peasant survivor of a Contra attack, Carmela Requenes Martinez; to the legendary Sandinista commander, Julio Ochoa, and two former Contra mercenaries who admit to killings that took place during the U.S.-funded (and much discredited) Contra War.
The film also revisits the mothers and children in the barrios, the taxi drivers, and of course, the politicians. What has happened to their lives since 1987? How do they now feel about the Sandinista Revolution, the Contras, Ronald Reagan, and, most importantly, how do they feel about the sudden attention they then received from the international news media?
Much has changed. The country is now replete with strip malls, prostitutes and MacDonald’s. Literacy is down. Infant deaths are up. Many NGOs and UN agencies are doing useful development work, particularly in the area of women’s health and housing. But, according to recent UNESCO reports, 26% of Nicaraguan children never set foot in a classroom, a figure twice as high as the 13% average in the rest of Latin America.
The journalists have also changed. Do they still feel like frustrated high-paid mouthpieces for a hidden editorial line? Has their commitment to the power of journalism increased or diminished?
More importantly, however, for the filmmakers, is the other half of the story – what of the Nicaraguans left behind? What of the democracy they now live in? What of representation? Of freedom? Of poverty?