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Pick of the Week

Defending Voices

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After watching A Little Bit of So Much Truth, I'm glad you folks (presumably) like the Tucson Weekly. Otherwise, you might be inclined to storm the newsroom, banging pots and pans and calling for media and government reform, as happened in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006.

You probably heard about the teacher's strike in Oaxaca, when radical teachers rallied hundreds of thousands of supporters, overtook the city and shut down the state government, leading Mexican federal troops to open fire on them.

It turns out there's a side of the story that the major media sources ignored--that is, until some of the media organizations were taken over.

A Little Bit of So Much Truth tells the story of the uprisings in Oaxaca and the movement's transformation from a teacher's strike with little public support into a populist battle--for reform of a corrupt government, and justice in the barricaded streets.

Voices of Opposition, a UA club, will show the film as part of its Monday Night Film and Lecture Series.

Considering the club's lefty perspective and indigenous point of view, the film fits right in with the topics of the series, according to Dr. Mary Jo Ghory, a Voices of Opposition organizer.

"We like to show the alternatives to the mainstream media," Ghory says. "We like to show what's happening all over the world, and we like to give a point of view that's not heard in our newspapers. So this is a perfect film for our series, because it's about (something that happened) in another country, from another point of view."

The 90-minute documentary was written, directed, edited and produced by Jill Friedberg (who also made This Is What Democracy Looks Like, about the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle) and has won awards around the world. The Spanish title is Un Poquito de Tanta Verdad, and the English version is subtitled.

At the heart of this story is Radio Universidad.

Radio Plantón was the voice of the teacher's strike until police attacked with helicopters, troops, tear gas and riot gear. They stormed the live studios, arrested people, impounded equipment and reportedly injured 90 people.

Oaxacans awoke to the news and took to the streets in protest. After the government's violent suppression of speech, the teacher's strike became the people's movement, and their voice, united in a demand that the governor of Oaxaca step down, could be heard on Radio Universidad.

The strike went on for months, during a presidential election, and many people died. The film explains some of the history and context for the protests and the bloody government response--including why some of the first targets for both sides were media organizations.

At one point, protesters took control of 14 radio stations, along with the state-run television station. By the end, the protesters had given back, or fighting had destroyed, all the stations except Radio Universidad. The final showdown between protesters and police was a seven-hour battle for Radio Universidad. Barricades and rock-throwing protesters stopped tanks and government troops, and the station continued broadcasting.

But alas, this is a film about struggle, not triumph. The station, and with it the movement, was eventually squashed, and the governor still resides.

Voices of Opposition knows something about fighting a long and fruitless fight. Originally titled Voices of Opposition to War, Racism and Oppression, the group formed in 2003 during the run-up to the Iraq war, says Ghory.

"We were very concerned with the rush to invade Iraq and to pass the Patriot Act and to take away the rights of U.S. citizens," she says. "So we started with several panel discussions on those topics."

In their first semester, the group had four panels and received a good audience response, according to Ghory. Voices of Opposition then decided to show films and make it a regular Monday-night event. The group fought through the hard times, when many in the media and the general population rallied in support of war, and keeps on staying true to the themes of war, racism and oppression while hosting roughly 10 free events per semester.

"We didn't get very much support from the faculty at the university," Ghory says. "People were afraid to speak out at that time. But over the years, it's become more and more acceptable to question the war, and we have more and more faculty support."

Voices of Opposition will show A Little Bit of So Much Truth at the UA Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Auditorium, 1130 N. Mountain Ave., at 7 p.m., Monday, March 2. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information on A Little Bit of So Much Truth, visit corrugate.org. For information on Voices of Opposition and the Monday Night Film and Lecture Series, visit voicesofopposition.com.

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