Our Brand is Crisis

The film Our Brand is Crisis recaps the Bolivian presidential election of 2002 and the impact the Greenberg Carville Shrum political consulting firm had on its results.  Director and writer Rachel Boynton depicts for the movie’s audience the underdeveloped state of the Bolivian economy, the opinions and motives of the Bolivian population, and the methods by which the political consulting firm, led by chief strategist Jeremy Rosner, uses its knowledge of these opinions and motives to capture the attention of the Bolivian voting populace.

Throughout the majority of the movie, the GCS firm attempts to reinstate former president Gonzalo ”Goni” Sanchez de Lozada.  Although Our Brand is Crisis is labeled as a documentary, through the questions of the interviewer and the portrayal of the sequence of events, Boynton’s film certainly shows a level of antipathy towards Goni and his group of political strategists.  About a year after winning the election and subsequently taking office, Goni is practically forced into resignation due to a series of violent protests.  Our Brand is Crisis tends to blame these protests not only on Goni’s ineptitude as president, but even seems to imply that the GCS firm itself held some of the responsibility for the political and economic instability that ensued after Goni’s rise to power.  While Boynton’s agenda appears to be the villification of Gonzalez Sanchez de Lozada and the Greenberg Carville Shrum political consulting firm, she fails to evoke sympathy for the Bolivian population and Goni’s opponents.  The newly elected president makes uncontested claims that he greatly aided the economic state of Bolivia during his first term through his capitalization policies, which brought in multinational corporations, the employment of which were approximately ninety percent Bolivians.  The only fault of the two-time president Boynton explicitly points out is his inability to connect with the people of Bolivia, a trait that does not take away so much as Goni’s ability as a president but from his ability as a politician.

Although Boynton’s implied views were not expressed effectively in the film, those opinions are not necessarily misguided.  Goni’s attempts at accelerating economic growth may be seen by outsiders such as the members of the Greenberg Carville Shrum political consulting firm as efforts to improve the plight of all Bolivians, but this is not always the case in underdeveloped countries.  According to John Perkins, this “concept is, of course, erroneous.  We know that in many countries economic growth benefits only a small portion of the population and may in fact result in increasingly desperate circumstances for the majority” (xv).   The capitalist strategies for improving standard of living has not worked in most underdeveloped South American nations.  Along with these capitalization strategies of the late twentieth century, “increasing poverty, stagnant or falling real wages, and a further and steady widening of the distribution of income in virtually every nation has also become the omnipresent and largely ignored social context” (Cypher 47). 

Rachel Boynton’s slant is somewhat apparent in the film, and her opinion holds merit.  While Our Brand is Crisis was unable to put the events that took place in 2002 and 2003 in their proper context in order to demonize Goni and the GCS, further exploration of the topic reveals the economic and political injustices that occurred.