News / USA

Film Casts Glowing Light on Hugo Chavez

US filmmaker Oliver Stone paints favorable picture of Venezuelan leader

Filmmaker Oliver Stone with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Venice.
Filmmaker Oliver Stone with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Venice.

Multimedia

Penelope Poulou

Academy award winning filmmaker Oliver Stone, known for his controversial take on political figures such as George W. Bush and Richard Nixon, and on historic events such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy, has released yet another controversial documentary.

"South of the Border" throws a glowing light on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, arguing that he has been portrayed unfavorably by the U.S. media.

Positive light

In the film, Stone presents Chavez as a leader who rose from the ranks of the poor to become a democratically-elected president.  Chavez emerges as a charismatic and beloved figure who defies American interventionism, creates a robust domestic economy and triumphs over - as Stone charges - an American-backed coup in 2002.

But Stone's attempt to create a provocative film falls flat. It does not provide any proof of a U.S. plot against the Venezuelan leader, nor any proof that Chavez's initiative to nationalize his country's natural resources has improved the country's economy.

Quite the contrary, says Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based think tank for policy analysis. According to Shifter, Venezuela has gotten poorer over the last four years. Its oil production has decreased and inflation has increased dramatically.

Economic woes

"Highest inflation by far in Latin America," says Shifter. "It could be over 40 percent this year, was 30 percent last year. Inflation hurts the poorest people. Crime. The statistics on crime are very troubling in all of Latin America. In Venezuela, they are off the charts."

Filmmaker Oliver Stone attending a screening of
Filmmaker Oliver Stone attending a screening of "South of the Border" outside of Washington, DC..

Stone's film does not address Venezuela's socio-economic woes.  Instead, he picks on the U.S. media for vilifying Chavez as a dictator and demagogue.

"I just think that was not a fair representation of the U.S. press," says Shifter. "That's not to say that there isn't room for criticism. But to say that is all one-sided, I think that doesn't reflect the reality."

Like Stone, Shifter acknowledges that Mr. Chavez was democratically elected, has a popular base, is hard working and cares for his constituents. But Shifter questions whether his rule is democratic.

"He makes all the decisions. There are no constraints on his power. He controls the judicial branch. To say that the judicial branch is independent is a joke. There's certainly been a lot of problems about the press, of his control of the press. Human rights abuses are clear. There are people that are in jail simply because of their disagreements with Chavez."

'South of the Border'

Tariq Ali, a British-Pakistani historian co-wrote "South of the Border." During an event for the film's promotion, he spoke about alleged human rights abuses in Venezuela.

"As to whether there may be some human rights violations, probably. I can't say there aren't any," says Ali.

This, too, is an issue that the film does not cover. Instead, Stone focuses on Chavez as a a leader who aspires to follow in Simon Bolivar's footsteps, to create a Latin America united against U.S. intervention.  

Stone says his film was received enthusiastically in Latin America.

"We had 6,000 Bolivarians cheering, 3,000 Venezuelans, 2,000 Equadorians. It was beautiful to see," says Stone. "This is an ongoing thing. This is not just a movie. It's a movement to carry through. North America is very interested in destabilizing these countries."

Stone's cinematography also leaves a lot to be desired.

Too many sugar-coated moments of male bonding between the filmmaker and the Venezuelan leader beg the question: What is this film about? A budding friendship between two colorful personalities basking in controversy or historic truth?

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs