Mon 25 Oct 2010
The last decade has seen Oliver Stone, one of America’s most outspoken and provocative filmmakers, cinematically pull back on his confrontational style. It’s almost as if the teeth he once used to bite into social issues were all ground down to nubs, now barely able to chew through mushy vegetables.
“Alexander” was an unmitigated disaster both as a film and a parable. “World Trade Center” pulled on the heartstrings due to its 9/11 setting but could have been a movie about any major accident with a minimal amount of editing. “W.” saw Stone take on George W. Bush but rather than skewer him with the sharp stick one would expect, it’s more of a rationalization of how he came to be.
Then there’s this year’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps“; it too postulates that Stone is going to rip into the corrupt financial system that played a part in the 2008 global economic collapse but is instead just a tale of one man’s redemption.
Well, apparently, all of the fire and energy that has been lacking from his feature films was channeled into the Latin American political scene and I’m happy to say that Oliver Stone is back (after what seems like an eternity) with the documentary, “South of the Border”.
Over the last decade, South American has undergone radical political change. New, democratically elected leaders have risen to power by embodying the people and promising to stop the cycle of Imperialism that has existed ever since Europeans set foot on their soil hundreds of years ago.
Stone travels throughout the continent, interviewing many of the key heads of state; Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Cuba’s Raúl Castro being just a few of the key examples.
The goal here is to create public awareness of what’s happening in the continent, as these leaders are attempting to truly become independent from outside influences like the International Monetary Fund, Europe and the United States. It’s a fascinating journey – in that we get first hand perspectives on why it is that these people felt obligated to become leaders and the goals they hope to obtain while in power.
Argentina’s current President, Cristina Kirchner, is proud that Latin American leaders are finally beginning to resemble the people they govern and aren’t simply a continuation of figureheads for outside influences. And perhaps the most nauseating comment comes from her husband Néstor, the previous President of Argentina who left due to term limits, when he talked about a conversation he had with President Bush (W., not Herbert Walker) who said that the way to strengthen a country’s economy is through war, not via a liberal idea like the Marshall Plan.
Now of course, one must view this documentary with a critical eye. How much of this is fact, how much is Stone’s perspective, how much do you trust politicians when they’re on camera? Still, the film provides an excellent jumping off point to discuss the changes in the region and their implications for the future and “South of the Border” gets a 4 out of 5 as a result.
Once you’ve watched the documentary, there are numerous extra bits that interested parties should take the time to watch. They expand the scope of the issues as well as delve into the reasons Stone wanted to make this film in the first place.
Dolby Digital 5.1 sound; Dolby Digital. Widescreen (1.85:1).
English (for the purposes of translating Spanish and Portugese interviews).
English (Some Interviews contain Spanish and Portuguese which are subtitled in English).
● South American Tour (2010)
— A twenty plus minute glimpse of what the press tour in the region was like for Oliver Stone once the documentary was finished and being released. Stone’s personal passion is truly on display in some of the interviews here and it’s definitely an extra feature to check out.
● Additional Questions for President Chávez (2010)
— With the documentary finished and while on his release tour, Stone takes the opportunity while visiting with Chávez to ask more personalized questions since the focus of the main film was to look at the change in the region as a whole. It’s an intriguing discussion regarding current Venezuela policy and well worth checking out.
● Deleted Scenes
— Obviously, these are deleted scenes that missed the final cut but are here for viewers to examine afterwards. Six of the foreign leaders get some extra time here, as well as one of the documentary’s co-writers who talks about neo-liberalism and what that means.
● Argentinean and Brazilian TV Interviews with Oliver Stone
— While on his press tour, two of the interviews with Stone are here to watch. They help to give audiences a glimpse into Stone’s motivation for making this documentary.
Whether you’re well versed on Latin American politics or U.S. foreign policy in the region, the documentary is sure to spark further debate on those subjects. South America is rarely thought of by Americans unless their natural resources (oil, natural gas, timber) become a point of order and affect our pocketbooks. In this ever-burgeoning global scene, it’s important that we all are familiar with the big picture and this DVD helps to give that awareness. It doesn’t matter if you think Stone’s perspective is right or wrong, what matters is that you take the time to decide for yourself.