Posted by: greercn | August 17, 2010

South of the Border

This exciting and incredibly entertaining documentary takes me back to the heady days of my youth when I was convinced that ordinary people could reclaim politics. I would not have imagined that Oliver Stone – who looks a little like my dad but sees conspiracy everywhere – could possibly be the source of such a funny, compelling and utterly engrossing movie.

The star is the Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. I should describe him as controversial because everyone else does. Yet it’s the energy, physicality and sense of humour of the man that I get from this sweeping and left-biased romp through modern South American political history. In the process, you get quite a lot of geography and a big perspective on the Bolivar movements of the last years.

Chavez shows Stone around his neighbourhood and utterly engages you. I feel no shame in being charmed. The vast majority of the North American and European media sources tell the other side. This is lefty fun and a powerful piece of agit-prop for the little guy triumphing – sort of – against the USA..

Now I have no doubt that the US is the biggest and best democracy in the world. But the war in Iraq and Afghanistan has left me feeling that freedom has lost its way. Each time I put tiny sizes of toiletries into plastic baggies for a plane trip, I feel democracy is reduced. I am certain my shampoo is not a terrorist.

And there is no doubt that CIA intervention and covert support for the right has eroded and damaged democracy in much of South America.

Stone emphasises the important fact that Evo Morales (Bolivia), Lula da Silva (Brazil), Cristina Kirchner (Argentina), and her husband and ex-President Nestor Kirchner as well as Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), and Raul Castro (Cuba) are all home grown and mostly from humble beginnings.

Stone has relaxed and unprecedented access to all of them and lets them tell their stories. Cristina Kirchner complains that journalists never ask male politicians how many pairs of shoes they have. Chavez mocks W while hoping for better from Obama.

The script credits go to Tariq Ali and Mark Weisbrot, but these politicians, who keep saying that they look like their people and have their interests at heart, do most of their own talking and they are all eloquent.

Okay, it’s one-sided and far from comprehensive. But it has a great big heart and will make you want to read and talk and think about the present and future of South America. Peace in the Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan and everywhere is a pretty great thing to long for. I do.

The blocade against Cuba seems like a foolish self-indulgence America should end. But, hey, that’s just my point of view. Do you want to get yours across? Come along to the Stratford Picture House on Sunday, August 22nd at 5PM and tell them you want to join the discussion group in the bar. It’s free and you don’t have to have seen “South of the Border” to join in. I hope lots of the people in this terrific and appreciative audience come along. They were a dream to watch a movie with and they all seemed to enjoy the film.

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