During an interview inside Santa Barbara’s Lobero theatre yesterday afternoon, director Oliver Stone (Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps) spoke about South of the Border, his still-unreleased documentary about a political sea-change brought about by a group of nativist, left-leaning South American leaders over the last few years.
Early in the discussion Stone riffed on the U.S. government’s constant investment in creating, agitating and maintaining enemies, which is primarily fueled by perceptions that their values aren’t sufficiently supportive of U.S. financial interests. He was primarily alluding to hostile attitudes and policies directed at Chavez by the Bush administration, but more generally to the agitated, five-alarm-fire mentality — paranoid, us.-vs.-them, line in the sand — of the military-industrial complex.
“[Beginning with] the Russian revolution, and then terrorists, this and this and this, drugs — I mean, it just goes on and on and on,” Stone said. “Since 1946 we’ve obviously been under the influence of something. Perhaps our water. Do you have to lose your mind in order to be initiated into the American political system? I’m not the only one [to feel this way]. But the level of debate is just astounding. It makes me long for…it makes me long for civilization.”
Growing disappointment with President Barack Obama was an underlying current in his remarks. Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, Stone believes, were the only two 20th Century presidents who tried to seriously re-order and shake things up in this country. Roosevelt especially, he said, who went in strong with no half measures — “If you’re going to change things you have to do it all the way.”
Stone was interviewed by MCN’s David Poland, who had also arranged to speak to Stone after the show for one of his DP/30 video pieces. I was going to congratulate Poland on the recent birth of his son, Cameron, but his condescending “I see you and ‘hello Jeffrey’ but that’s as far as I’d like to take it” attitude quashed this notion in seconds.
Oliver Stone with copy of “Responses to Oliver Stone’s Alexander: Film, History and Cultural Studies,” a compilation of essays about Stone’s 214-minute epic (i.e., the length of the “final cut” version on DVD/Blu-ray).
I reviewed South of the Border after seeing it at a special Lincoln Center screening last September. Here’s a portion of it:
“Is Stone’s documentary a hard-hitting portrait of South American political realities and particularly the reign of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez? No, but it’s a perfectly reasonable and welcome counter- view to the U.S. mainstream-media Kool-Aid version, which has always been reactionary and rightist-supporting and hostile to nativist movements.
The doc “is a good deal more than just a friendly (i.e., non-condemning) portrait of Chavez. It’s actually a group portrait of all the left-leaning South American heads of state whose views represent a political sea change.
“All my life (or at least until recently) the leaders of South American countries have been largely run by right-leaning frontmen for the oligarchs (i.e., the upper-crust elite), which have always been in league with U.S. interests and the coldly capitalist, market-driven finaglings of the International Monetary Fund. And the lower classes have always had to eat bean dip.
“But since the turn of the century a turnabout has begun to happen with the arrival of a generation of Bolivarian (i.e., nativist, anti-outsider) leaders with skeptical or contrarian attitudes about US manipulations — Venezuela’s Chavez, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Brazil’s Lula da Silva, Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner (along with her husband and ex-President Nestor Kirchner), Paraguay’s Fernando Lug, and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa.
“So now there are six Latin American presidents of a similar mindset, and seven if you add Cuba’s Raul Castro. That’s pretty significant considering that much of South and Central America had been under the control of a series of U.S.-supporting, IMF-funded rightist governments for most of the 20th Century.”
SBIFF publicist Carol Marshall, Oliver Stone backstage at the Lobero — Saturday, 2.13, 4:25 pm.