South Of the Border: a review

An interesting slant on contemporary Latin American politics, which although somewhat one-sided, does the job in posing important questions against the status quo.

Alison Boston

In Oliver Stone’s latest documentary film, he travels to five countries in Latin America to find the “true” story of Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution which has led to the election of 7 socialist presidents in the region. Impressively, Stone manages to hold interviews with each of these 7 heads of state: Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Lula de Silva (Brazil), Cristina Kirchner (Argentina) as well as her husband, the former president, Nestor Kirchner, Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), Rafael Correa (Ecuador) and Raul Castro (Cuba).

These interviews are interspersed with clips from the American media which are designed to demonstrate the negative portrayal of socialist movements in Latin America within the United States. Although Stone mainly uses footage from Fox News, not known for its objective broadcasting, this still goes to highlight the shocking poor quality of the news coverage which a large proportion of the US population are exposed too.

Stone will come under criticism for producing a one-sided view which fails to push the presidents, particularly Chavez, any further than a series of light-hearted exchanges. The depth of Stone’s interviews is also hindered by language barriers and interpreters who appear to have difficulties keeping up with the leaders’ dynamic responses. All the same, the leaders tell us more than Stone appears interested in (he’d rather kick a football around with Evo Morales) and come across as both intelligent and incredibly likeable, emphasizing the disparities in media coverage.

Importantly, the film shows a perspective on Latin American politics which is rarely voiced in the West. There is a great sense of comradeship between the leaders who evoke a feeling of old-school intellectual revolution. Even if one gets the feeling there has been rather a great deal left out of the picture, the documentary makes the point of showing a side which needs to be heard. There are lessons which can be learnt from this film about the reliability of Western media which ought to be applied to countless other international incidents. This is certainly a film worth seeing, if only to ignite the debate.

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