South of the Border

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Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
South of the Border
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Oliver Stone and his documentary crew traveled the width and breadth of Latin America interview eight heads of state, including Hugo Chavez the president of Venezuela. Stone and his team bring to light a continent that, after centuries of colonialism, is on the verge of finally coming into its own “South of the Border.”

Robin:
This documentary, with Hugo Chavez given fully half of the film’s run time, also includes interviews and insights from past and present presidents of several Latin American countries. Evo Morales (Bolivia), Lula da Silva (Brazil), Cristina Kirchner and her husband Nestor (Argentina), Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), Rafael Correa (Ecuador) and Raul Castro (Cuba) talk about their countries, past, present and future and the influence that Hugo Chavez had on their taking command of their own resources and push international capitalist conglomerates out of their countries.

In my case, Oliver Stone preaches to the choir in his praise of Chavez and those whom he encouraged to make real reforms for the people in their respective countries. If you have only been exposed to US media coverage of Hugo Chavez, you only get accusatory slander that he is a leftist puppet and an enemy. What Stone shows us is a man who has united his people, made real inroads in social reforms in Venezuela, has been re-elected eight times and survived a 36-hour right wing media coup that ended with a million Venezuelans converging on Caracas and demanding Chavez’s return to the presidency.

Stone takes 36 minutes before his cameras leave Chavez and journey to the other countries mentioned. Praise flows from these presidents for Chavez with honest admiration and each has a story of how they took control of their countries’ destinies. Evo Morales, the first Indian ever elect president, had all foreign military bases removed from Bolivia. Lula da Silva of Brazil was a leftist iron worker before elected president and was able to turn the failing Brazilian economy around, paying off the loans of the International Monetary Fund and showing a surplus income.

For a continent that has been under foreign control for hundreds of years, the progress these nations have made is remarkable, with current discussion of having a South American currency, much like the Euro. Hugo Chavez is a Venezuelan national hero, obviously extremely intelligent and loved by his people. If this guy is a dictator, then George W. Bush was a good president.

The DVD is chock-a-block with 90-minutes of extras. Stone’s interviews with Chavez in 2010; behind the scenes of the South America promotion tour when “South of the Border” was first released; deleted scenes that offer further insight into those interviewed; “Changes in Venezuela” on the reforms Chavez instituted and the impact on the poor; plus, two South American TV interviews with Oliver Stone make a value-added package worth renting. I give both the film and the DVD a B+.

Laura:
Laura did not see this film.
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