Oliver Stone´s mistakes about Chavez and Latin America.
How much, Mr. Stone?
In feature films about John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon and George W. Bush, Oliver Stone gave free rein to his imagination and was often criticized for doing so. Now, in “South of the Border,” which opened on Friday, he has turned to Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s controversial populist president, and his reformist allies in South America.
“People who are often demonized, like Nixon and Bush and Chávez and Castro, fascinate me,” Mr. Stone said in an interview this week during a tour to promote the film, which portrays Mr. Chávez as a benevolent, generous, tolerant and courageous leader who has been unjustly maligned. “It’s a recurring thing,” he added, that may suggest “a psychological attachment to the underdog” on his part.
Unlike his movies about American presidents, the 78-minute “South of the Border” is meant to be a documentary, and therefore to be held to different standards. But it is plagued by the same issues of accuracy that critics have raised about his movies, dating back to “JFK.” Taken together, the mistakes, misstatements and missing details could undermine Mr. Stone’s glowing portrait of Mr. Chávez.
Mr. Stone’s problems in the film begin early on, with his account of Mr. Chávez’s rise. As “South of the Border” portrays it, Mr. Chávez’s main opponent in his initial run for president in 1998 was “a 6-foot-1-inch blond former Miss Universe” named Irene Sáez, and thus “the contest becomes known as the Beauty and the Beast” election.
But Mr. Chávez’s main opponent then was not Ms. Sáez, who finished third, with less than 3 percent of the vote. It was Henrique Salas Romer, a bland former state governor who won 40 percent of the vote.
When this and several other discrepancies were pointed out to Mr. Stone in the interview, his attitudes varied. “I’m sorry about that, and I apologize,” he said about the 1998 election. But he also complained of “nitpicking” and “splitting hairs” and said that it was not his intention to make either a program for C-Span or engage in what he called “a cruel and brutal” Mike Wallace-style interrogation of Mr. Chávez that the BBC broadcast this month.
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