Stone says Chavez film may struggle to get U.S. play

VENICE (Reuters) - U.S. director Oliver Stone fears his documentary about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a fierce critic of American foreign policy, will struggle to find a distributor at home.

“South of the Border,” which had its world premiere at the Venice film festival this week, portrays Chavez as a champion of the poor, and includes interviews with the leaders of Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay, Ecuador and Cuba.

He focuses on how a generation of leftist leaders is seeking increasing independence from the International Monetary Fund and, by extension, U.S. economic policy, which Stone criticizes in the movie.

South of the Border also seeks to demonstrate how Chavez has been unfairly demonized by the U.S. media which has cast him as a dangerous maverick who is a threat to security.

Stone, 62, told Reuters in an interview that he anticipated a struggle getting the movie to a U.S. audience, noting how previous films made about Central or South America had shared the same fate.

“‘Salvador’ with Jimmy Woods had a hard distribution path in America and ‘Comandante’ with Mr. (Fidel) Castro was taken off the air two weeks before it was going to be on cable, HBO,” he said in a joint interview with Chavez late on Monday.

“‘Looking for Fidel’ was shown, but limited. It’s always a problem and this is not just me.

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“Most films that deal honestly with south of the border issues run into this logjam. It’s an American complex about the back yard, the south, it’s been going on for a century.”

Chavez told Reuters he was seeking to build “a real democratic model” in Venezuela, and said he was hopeful he could work alongside U.S. President Barack Obama.


Oscar winner Stone said he was prepared for criticism “from both sides” of the political spectrum in the United States for painting such a sympathetic portrait of Chavez, a leader whose democratic credentials many question.

“Fifteen to 20 percent of this film is outright scandalous criticism of President Chavez. We show it point blank,” Stone said. “He’s called everything by Fox News but also by the New York Times.”

Stone said his film meant to explore more than just Chavez’s leadership and attempts by regional leaders to work closer together in order to keep the United States at arms length.

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“This is a bigger issue than Mr. Chavez and South America,” said Stone. “Not only is there a revolution there, but there is this issue in America of constantly seeking out enemies, whether they be in Vietnam, whether they be in Iraq ... or whether they be in Iran.

“Venezuela was on the hit list, no question. Why do we make enemies? Is it to maintain our own military? Is it to justify the creation of the American superstate? Why?”

After delivering a strong endorsement of Chavez’s socialist agenda, and questioning the tenets of what he calls U.S. “predatory capitalism,” Stone is returning to the scene of one of his most famous films with a sequel to 1987’s “Wall Street.”

He told Variety magazine that he had not been interested in the project until the economic collapse that started a year ago.

Editing by Paul Casciato