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South Of The Border
Ollie Stone meets El Presidente!

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Following on from his riveting chats with Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat, Oliver Stone travels to five South American countries and interviews their presidents, trying to understand what he sees as the rise of a new kind of popular democratic socialism in the region.

South Of The Border
Despite their technical sophistication and ripped-from-the-headlines feel, Oliver Stone’s films have always had a distinctly old-Hollywood quality: white hats set against black hats with good (grunt/blue-collar boy/harried D. A.) pitted against evil (army/Wall Street/establishment conspiracy), any areas of grey stridently obliterated by robust storytelling and masterful editing. It’s a Capraesque worldview, perfect for movies. Sadly, it’s less helpful when applied to the less Manichean world of real-life Latin American politics.

Stone’s definition of what makes a good political leader seems heavily predicated on them getting up the nose of the American government, thus all five of the leaders encountered are treated as equally saintly, any unfortunate moral or political blemishes politely ignored. The complicating fact, for instance, that Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez came to power via a coup, albeit a popular one, is mentioned then airily dismissed. And it is left to former president of Argentina Nestor Kirchner to gently castigate the object of Stone’s schoolboy crush for his somewhat undemocratic desire to be elected for life.

A chat with Cuban leader Raúl Castro must hold some kind of record for the least informative encounter with a national leader in journalistic history, while veteran British commentator and former revolutionary Marxist Tariq Ali inadvertently provides light relief by imagining a pan-South American uprising fomenting a second American Revolution — precisely the kind of batty scenario that gives the US hawks their excuse to interfere in the first place. This is illustrated by a graphic with Dad’s Army-style arrows nudging menacingly at the US border. It’s enough to have Obama choking on a pretzel.

In amongst all this gaseous backslapping there is the odd informative moment. An account of the way the American government, in cahoots with the media, aided the 2002 coup against Chávez is opportune, and the IMF comes in for some deserved criticism for its role as a shill for discredited neo-con economic policy.

Stone is right in saying that the voices of these leaders are either ignored or distorted by western media. But complex issues need nuanced questions and tenacious interviews, not the fawnings of a political fanboy.

Stone’s film could have allowed political voices that are rarely present to get a fair, and critical hearing. Instead he near smooches them to death.

Reviewed by Adam Smith

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Average user rating for South Of The Border
Empire Star Rating

RE: Apology.

I'm going to stand up for Adam here as I believe that all of his criticisms (minus the one factual issue) about this film are correct.   I'm glad that we have the opportunity to listen to the leaders giving their views but can't help but think this is a massive opportunity wasted.  The whole thing is too sycophantic, too easy for the various leaders.  Unfortunately, Oliver Stone doesn't have the journalistic chops to take this film to the next level and from the interview whi... More

Posted by Groovy Mule at 14:17, 17 August 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Apology.

For the record I addressed this here: ... More

Posted by bojangles1971 at 22:55, 16 August 2010 | Report This Post


Sorry Mrs. O' Hara, I heard the interview again and realised you didn't actual belive the liberally biased American media statement. Even more reason for Mr. Smith to get his facts straight! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by shollenator at 15:11, 31 July 2010 | Report This Post

Too close to the Truth?

I have to side with Gigolo Joe's comments: at least get your facts straight Mr. Smith before you castigate a man admirably trying to "rebalance" some disgusting press semantics about South American "dictators". The EMPIRE interviewer Helen o' Hara also mentions a "liberal bias" in the American Media, before Stone/Ali correct her. Once more guys, before you ask for a "fair and critical hearing", start by removing your own political sway. I found the film... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by shollenator at 15:00, 31 July 2010 | Report This Post

Difficult to know what to make of this film

This is a difficult film to judge.  On the one hand, South and Latin America is largely ignored in the UK unless the issue is the Falkland Islands or football, predominantly because it is so far away from us and therefore, our respective influence on each other is limited.  With that in mind, it is refreshing to be able to hear from so many leaders of the region and actually have someone shine a light on the geopolitical issues of the region.  However, on the other hand, it can h... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Groovy Mule at 11:05, 31 July 2010 | Report This Post

The Invisible Hand

Adam Smith: I thought a joke name at first, but perhaps your namesake is as much an indicator of your political persuasions as it could be for discerning this review.. In the first place, aside from the generally condescending tone, you've misread Oliver Stone's entire body of work, with the suspiciously cliched view that bedevils most politically infused art, that his films are strident, biased or lacking in subtlety. It's fairly well known that the central characters in Stone's films are... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Gigolo Joe at 02:48, 28 July 2010 | Report This Post

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