(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Oliver Stone says that there is a revolution of reform going on in South America as several of the countries have presidents who claim leftist views. He visits five countries and seven of these presidents discussing their policies. Stone never questions their policies and presents them with admiration. He does not apologize for his bias, but presents a point of view difficult to get listening only to the American media. Taken with a grain of salt, there is something of an education here in how the United States government manipulates the countries of South America and how they are fighting back. Presidents interviewed are Presidents Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Lula da Silva (Brazil), Nestor Kirchner (Argentina), Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), and Raul Castro (Cuba) Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

Oliver Stone frequently takes the role of the United States government's loyal opposition. His films like PLATOON, BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, and JFK take a generally leftist slant and frequently edge over into conspiracy theories. In SOUTH OF THE BORDER he takes a grand tour of countries in South America interviewing the seven presidents who take the strongest leftist slants. The better these leaders are known in the United States, the more time he spends with them. His coverage of the presidents is unswervingly positive. He seems to treat each of the presidents as if he were a personal friend and his friendship is apparently reciprocated on camera. Stone gives us positive, if not loving, looks at each of the seven presidents.

Not surprisingly, the lion's share of attention goes to Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela and probably the best known of the reforming--if that is the word--presidents. Footage shows his being friendly with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad--not necessarily the best poster boy for the liberal movement and not really much of a reformer either. Stone does not question the wisdom of this friendship, but uses it to illustrate that Chavez has the courage to defy United States interests. The DVD comes with 90 minutes of extras mostly concentrating on Chavez and Venezuela. The documentary's heavy emphasis on Chavez suggests that the film was originally to be about just him and the coverage of the other countries was an after thought or to extend the documentary to feature length.

This is a useful documentary if the viewer knows that what she or he is getting will not be an unbiased viewpoint. It is true that American media coverage of South America is poor in general, though not generally as bad as the excerpts from Fox News that Stone uses to illustrate how bad coverage can be: Gretchen Carlson confusing coca and cocoa. If Oliver Stone is trying only to improve on this witless news coverage he is setting the bar rather low for himself. But he is presenting the major reformers of South America in an informal way in which they can present their viewpoints to the American people.

Oliver Stone's coverage of this South American revolution is certainly better than the education one might get from Fox News. Within the United States this could be the best source for information about South American politics and still not be very good. SOUTH OF THE BORDER points to the need of a good contemporary study of South American political movement rather than actually filling that vacancy. I rate SOUTH OF THE BORDER a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. Cinema Libre released this film on DVD on October 26, 2010.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2010 Mark R. Leeper