Famed director Oliver Stone premiered his film South of the Border last night in NYC and we caught up with him to talk to him about the controversial new documentary. The film, hitting select theaters June 25th, is a whirlwind tour of Latin American politics and paints various leaders who have been vilified in the American press in a complimentary light. From Hugo Chavez to Cristina de Kirchner to Evo Morales, Stone gains unprecedented access. Here's what he had to tell us:
South of the Border has been quote controversial since word spread that you were making it. What has the reaction to this film been so far?
Actually, surprisingly good. The majority has liked the movie. What’s not to like? It’s a 101 Road Guide to a situation that most people don’t know about in this country. It’s also a huge historical movement. Never before have so many of these Latin American countries come together at one time and agreed to try to change things, and to make a difference, and they did.
What sparked your interest in Latin American politics?
I did Salvador back in 1985 and it was disgusting to see what America was doing to Central America. They were repeating Vietnam—trying to control civilian populations, abusing them, participating in death squads, sending money to the wrong guys. We’ve fucked up so many countries: Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador. What are we doing that’s good in South America? What have we ever done except rip them off and stolen their resources?
You want to reach the general American population but the film is only being screened in specific theaters in New York and San Francisco.
It will also be on Showtime, which will reach some people. We cannot expect—we didn’t expect anything. When we made the movie we thought it was a small movie. We thought we’d be lucky to get it onto Venezuelan television. We didn’t think there would be much interest in this story in America. We’ve been burned before. Comandante [Stone's doc about Fidel Castro] was censored, it was taken of the air for Christ’s sake!
Why do you think Hugo Chávez inspires such extreme reactions from people, both within his country and outside?
South America! What do you call it? It’s that hot blood you have. Except for the Andes, the Andes are much more stoic. I don’t know, there’s something about it. I find it to be ferociously hot tempered. That’s part of that problem that they have. And Chávez does too, he gets hot-tempered, he says his thing, he blows steam sometimes. He’s an honest person and he cares about the poor people, because he was poor, and he’s an honest man.
Do you think that the Utopian vision you talk about in the film—Latin American immigrants coming to the United States and changing the world—is truly possible?
Yeah, sure. Why can’t there be a Spanish-speaking president? It would be interesting if it were an illegal immigrant who became president. That would be great!
You seem very hopeful.
I am, I want to be. Listen, I have to be. What are we going to do, die? We’re trying to live free. There are many good people in America. Many. The majority of us elected Obama, but we’re not getting through now, the message gets diluted at the top.