South of the Border: Oliver Stone’s Mash Note to Dictators

So one-sided that it nearly validates what the right says about Hollywood's liberal crusaders, Oliver Stone's essay/lecture/travelogue is propaganda in the form of a home movie, documenting Stone's summer vacation spent in the collegial company of the figureheads of various South American states. About 10 minutes in, the iconic filmmaker appears onscreen for the first time alongside Hugo Chávez, the charismatic, controversial leader of Venezuela. This is not a sit-down interview; the filmmaker isn't directing questions at Chávez, or apparently directing much of anything—they're just hanging out. Afforded extraordinarily casual access to Chávez, Raúl Castro, the Kirchners of Argentina, Paraguay's Fernando Lugo, and other heads of state, Stone generally allows his subjects to set the course of conversation, avoiding not only tough questions about allegations of corruption and their human-rights records, but also pretty much any question that might get in the way of each leader's sales pitch for his regime, or the notion of the U.S. as the big, bad man holding them down. The construction of false realities for political gain is the subject of much of Stone's own work—so why is he content to take each leader's practiced-for-the-camera spiel at face value, never pushing for information or conducting interviews on any deeper level than a photo op? South of the Border's subjects are masters at cooking bullshit, and Stone just eats it up.

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