Stone and the Other America
In South of the Border, famously liberal controversial filmmaker Oliver Stone travels to South America to debunk the myths disseminated in the U.S. about the most notorious leaders of its countries. Notorious? Even as a more-active-than-just-casual observer of the news, I confess I haven't been very aware of South American politics; I had been too busy hearing about Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. They're the countries U.S. President George W. Bush once labeled "The Axis of Evil," but apparently Venezuela and its president, Hugo Chávez, had been another thorn in his side.
Stone's documentary paints a picture in which the current crop of South American leaders gained power, steering their countries toward more independent economies that benefit their working class, all of which did not serve the Bush administration's interests of help in stirring the South American pots. Stone starts by profiling and interviewing revolutionary leader Chávez before moving on to neighboring countries to interview other leaders in this "leftist" South American movement, including Evo Morales of Bolivia, the Kirchners of Argentina, Lula da Silva of Brazil, and Raúl Castro of Cuba. The movie paints the leaders in a humane light while juxtaposing the smear job against them by conservative media, both in South America and in the U.S. In effect, in light of Bush's recent exit, President Barack Obama's more moderate stance towards the southern continent, and the continent's own progress, Stone's film effectively sticks it to Bush's policy of American imperialism.
To call the documentary one-sided would be like saying the ocean is blue, and Stone doesn't make it better on himself by depicting his relationship to the South American leaders as lovey-dovey -- frankly, he acts like a fawning fan of rock stars. But even with the slant given here, the bigger picture one can extrapolate from the film gives a significant perspective of how strongly the U.S. perceives its foreign interests almost solely as capitalist investments. It isn't hard to believe how far the U.S. is willing to go in order to keep some semblance of control through political manipulation over a foreign economy as long as there's some wealth to gain or preserve from it.
At the very least, South of the Border reminds us that something is going on in the southern hemisphere that may have as much impact on the U.S. as what's happening in the Middle East and Asia. So this movie is worth watching, while keeping its bias in mind, as an introduction to the political events in South America during the last decade.
(Released by Cinema Libre Studio and rated "PG" by MPAA.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.