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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs