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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs