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Boots Riley Finishes Incendiary Venezuela-Centered Spirit Award Speech Backstage

When Boots Riley won the Film Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature on Saturday, he closed his acceptance speech with an impassioned plea to pay attention to the unfolding tension currently happening in Venezuela. Nicolás Maduro, currently Venezuela’s president, is under international pressure to lift restrictions on resources into the country. The border between Venezuela and Colombia has been closed signaling that further escalation may be imminent.

While the ceremony cut Riley off before he could finish his speech, the director expanded on his sentiments backstage. To assembled press Riley said,

“Obviously, the CIA, every time they targeted a country for regime change, they tell you the same things. They tell you the same things in Iraq, they tell you the same things that they did in Chile in 1973. They all say, ‘They’ve lost support, they’re dictators. We’re just helping people.’ We know. C’mon. Everybody knows that’s not true. Right now, under the guise of humanitarian aid, they’re doing the same thing the US did in Guatemala in the ’80s, which was sneak guns to right-wing forces in Central America through what they call ‘humanitarian aid.’ Now, when the Russians were trying to get ‘humanitarian aid’ into Ukraine a few years ago, the MSM out here correctly said, ‘Oh, we know they’re sneaking guns in that way.’ All of a sudden, nobody’s saying the same thing in the mainstream media. The people of Venezuela are the ones that should be deciding who rules them. The US has been working with opposition forces there for years.”

Riley went on to discuss how that message connects to “Sorry to Bother You,” a film that is not shy about its strong political underpinnings.

“Growing up, I got involved in movements that showed me that all the struggles that we’re talking about are related to material things and things that we can actually change and that the root of our power has to do with what we’re doing every day, which is creating profit for someone,” Riley said. “We can have power react to us by stopping that, through organizing on the job and having movements that use withholding of labor as a tactic and a strategy for social change. Those are the things I’ve learned and those are in the movie.”

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