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South of the Border

Quickcard Review South of the Border

Directed by: Oliver Stone Cast: Hugo Chavez, Raul Castro, Tariq Ali, Oliver Stone Running Time: 1 hr 20 mins Rating: R Release Date: July 9, 2010 (limited)

PLOT: In this documentary, Oliver Stone travels across South America and discusses that continent's relationship with the United States with various elected leaders, including Hugo Chavez.

WHO'S IT FOR?: The liberals who are more inclined to listen to one filmmaker's political ideas disguised as a historical profile piece.


Other names that work for the vaguely titled South of the Border? How about “Hangin’ With Hugo?” “Me and Hugo Down By The Schoolyard?” “Riding In Cars With South American Leaders?” Oliver Stone is a passionate filmmaker, especially when it comes to his own political agenda. Before George W. Bush was even freed from his worst job ever, Stone threw together a movie based on that man’s life. That enthusiasm is channeled into this latest fascination, which is South America and its fledgling leaders. With South of the Border, Stone tries to lower the proposed “devilish” nature of those like Hugo Chavez, and presents them in an eye that is as cheaply persuasive as Stone’s original targets – media outlets like Fox News. His attempts at softening the hard image put upon these leaders are pieced together with a bit too much cotton.

Stone has an interesting thesis – he is trying to prove that the not-so-evil leaders of various South American countries are actually onto something, just as America was during its beginning days. And just like our nation, these lands are trying to find solid economical footing in the type of world now “ruled” by countries like America, etc. But with this exploration comes “No Spin Zone” quality filmmaking. Stone has the facts, and the interviews, and packages them into his own quaint editorial, complete with footage like Hugo Chavez riding a bicycle over the land of which he was raised, only for it to collapse underneath his ass. In other instances, Oliver Stone is seen playing soccer with one leader, and asking another how many shoes she has. He hangs out with them, and sneaks these images apparent amicability into a representative of how these people can lead, and successfully lead. It doesn't work as well as Stone might think.

Also - I do not fault Oliver Stone for not learning Spanish, despite his fascination with South American culture and their leaders. I do, however, wish he would’ve found a better way to edit the film with his translators. With Stone talking to a Spanish speaking politician, whose words are translated into white subtitles but transcribed on the spot by a translator, it often feels like four people are talking all at once. With that amount, and with the spoken information sometimes repeated by the subtitles and by the audio, it becomes very distracting. Not to mention that the translators speak very loudly, and Stone doesn’t bother to edit them with any fluidity. It’s very hard to stay tuned in with these conversations. Hey idiots, why don’t you use an ear piece? You know, like they do for a whole bunch of people in places like the UN?

After watching Stone hang out with the elected leaders, and offer tidbits about how we can appreciate all that they are working towards, he is at least successful in wiping the foam away from Chavez’ mouth, image-wise. But he does so with tricky storytelling, and fluffy presentations. So, in the words of Stone's anti-god George W. Bush, “mission accomplished?”


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