In 2016 TV anchor Francisco Suarez has the unique opportunity to interview one of the Presidential candidates. Torn by his desire to be objective, he is left with a choice that could not only mean the end of his career but the deliverance of his country. This is Felix Igori Ramos’ In The Defense Against Tyranny.
The divisive nature of politics is put under the spotlight in director Ramos’ close-to-the-bone depiction of a ‘fictional’ 2016 Presidential race. I’ve purposefully put the word fictional in quotation marks there because, although the film is a fictional piece of work that director Ramos has written, there is no disguising who, In The Defense Against Tyranny, is taking aim at and it does not hold back.
There is no ignoring the elephant in the room and that elephant is Donald Trump, the film’s main antagonist is a Presidential candidate named Edward Ashe. Ashe is played by actor Rick Ravanello and he oozes charisma; it’s easy to see why people like him. Ashe is a straight-talking, right-wing zealot who does not hide his harsh views on the left’s policies, including, government power and immigration. He also happens to be a billionaire with an “American First” mantra, and who is not shy about telling his supporters who watch him speak at rallies about how rich he is and how he thirsts for power. And just in case you still haven’t got it, he is running against a female candidate on the opposite side. Sound familiar?
Meanwhile, our protagonist is Frank Suarez (an excellent Randy Vasquez) a former liberal candidate who was once hailed as the wonder kid of left-wing politics and considered to be the next JFK before his life spiralled out of control thanks to his weakness for drink and women.
The film opens by introducing us to Sanchez, who we initially like but then slowly start to change our minds as we watch his wife finds out he is cheating on her and in a rage chooses that moment to tell him she has cancer. Loathed by his dying wife and hated by his daughter, played by the brilliantly aggressive Fernanda Moya, it’s a powerful opening and a brave choice by Ramos to give us a protagonist who has so many flaws, though it’s these flaws that also make him more human.
Despite his self-loathing, Suarez somewhat reinvents himself as the host of a political talk show and is given the interview of a lifetime when Ashe, the red hot favourite for President, invites himself onto his show on the condition Suarez asks him easy questions. Will Suarez bend to the will of the powerful or will he stand up for what he feels is right for the people?
Jeremy Bolden’s cinematography works really well for the subject matter, and what stands out most is the vast amount of locations that were used in the film. There is a particularly memorable image of a lighthouse as the sun rises behind it. All the different locations add to the overall drama of the film, while also helping it to look like it had a bigger budget.
In The Defense Against Tyranny is not without its flaws, as it suffers from a few audio and lighting issues, but Ramos has produced and directed a strong film. It’s a film that really comes down to three compellingly intense performances, one woman who has to come to terms with her dad’s fallibility, and two men with such deep needs entirely outside their politics. In the end, all we know about Suarez and Ashe is almost not that important. It all comes down to those two men in that room while the cameras are rolling and who blinks first.