Monday, 7 September 2009

Venice 2009: South Of The Border

A companion piece of sorts to Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story, Oliver Stone’s latest documentary, following films about Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat, began as an attempt by the Wall Street director to challenge the US media’s overwhelmingly negative image of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who, throughout the Bush term, was depicted as a subversive, a terrorist and an enemy of the United States.

Traveling to Latin America, Stone paints a rosy picture of a President loved by his people (although we never hear from them), and a continent on the cusp of radical change, with Chavez at its fulcrum, ready to stand up to its North American neighbours both financially and politically. Chavez himself makes for a dream subject. Like Stone, a former military man, he’s outspoken and jocular, with a wry sense of humour (“this is where we’re building the Iranian nuclear bomb,” he deadpans on a visit to a corn processing plant”); quite different to the anti-American dictator portrayed in some well-chosen and largely hysterical clips from Fox News.

Then again, Stone is hardly unbiased himself, the film neglecting to mention a recent referendum to remove the limit on the length of Chavez’s term in office. Widening his net to include other South America leaders, Stone also sits down with the Presidents of Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina, where he asks the female incumbent, Cristina Kirchner, how many pairs of shoes she owns. Her comeback is priceless.

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