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

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech 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.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs