Given his love of political intrigue and controversy, it's not surprising Oliver Stone (JFK, Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July) decided to make a film focused on Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. The documentary begins with a series of hysterical (both rabid and funny) clips of Fox News anchors and commentators demonizing Chávez over matters both political and petty. Stone announces he intends to cut through the propaganda, much of it from overheated Bush administration talking points endlessly repeated by the American news media, including The New York Times. Bush called Chávez a dictator; Chávez says it's all about Venezuela's oil resources.
Stone trekked across South America and interviewed leaders including Chávez, Evo Morales (Bolivia), Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Kirchner (the married former and current president of Argentina), Lula da Silva (Brazil) and Raul Castro (Cuba). There's obviously a lot that could be included in such a broad suvery, but Stone is particularly focused on the role of the IMF (International Monetary Fund), a development organization basically run by the U.S. with policies that overwhelmingly favor the interests of foreign investors vis-à-vis native control of resources. With frequent references to Simon Bolivar (1783-1830), who helped many South American nations gain independence from Spain, Stone observes a struggle of left wing politics and native populations against the allied interests of industrialized nations from the Northern Hemisphere and the wealthy and enfranchised few within each nation. The 2002 failed coup against Chávez provides an interesting case study.
At 78 minutes, the film is brief, and it is full of chummy meetings — occasionally in heavily contrived scenes — between Stone and South American presidents. Novelist, historian and political writer Tariq Ali worked on the screenplay and appears on camera. It's not an exhaustive history of the region, but it does sketch out the framework of relations between the United States and South American nations. And it shows basic courses different nations have followed, but given Brazil's success, it would have benefited from more content about that nation, the world's ninth largest economy. Tickets $7 general admission, $6 students/seniors, $5 Zeitgeist members. — Will Coviello
through Aug. 2
South of the Border
5:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. Fri.-Sun.; 5:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. Tue.-Thu., July 27-29
Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center, 1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 827-5858; www.zeitgeistinc.net