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Chavez Welcomed at Venice Film Festival


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez received a movie star welcome in Venice on Monday as he arrived to attend the 66th Venice Film Festival. Mr. Chavez was accompanied by U.S. film director Oliver Stone for the premiere of his documentary titled South of the Border.

Hundreds of fans clapped and chanted as Hugo Chavez walked the red carpet at the film festival. Some fans held up a banner that read "Bienvenido Presidente".

Security was tight and a large group of bodyguards escorted the Venezuelan President, who said, "I have Italy in my heart."

Mr. Chavez said he loves Italian cinema and that he remembers actresses like Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren and Claudia Cardinale. He said he has been in love with all of them since he was a young boy.

Alongside Mr. Chavez was American filmmaker Oliver Stone. The Venezuelan president called the director "a great worker, a great teller of true stories."

Addressing the media, Stone called the Venezuelan president "a big phenomenon" and said his 75-minute documentary shows very clearly the level of "stupidity" in the broad statements that are made about Mr. Chavez. Stone said his film is meant to show the changes that are taking place in South America.

For his movie, Stone also interviewed the leaders of Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba and Paraguay, whom he said "are on the same page" as Mr. Chavez.

Stone's documentary South of the Border is showing out of competition at the Venice Film Festival. Twenty-four films from 32 countries are competing for the Golden Lion Award, which will be announced on Saturday - the final day of the film festival.

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