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South of the Border
Time Out New York Project: Issue #769, June 24–30, 2010
Dir. Oliver Stone. 2009. N/R. 102mins. Documentary.
Propriety by damned: Oliver Stone hawks a huge-ass loogie at the reigning order with his documentary about our mostly left-leaning South American neighbors. It begins as a sympathetic portrait of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, who acts as guide around a country that he insists is nothing like the vitriolic, violent entity portrayed by the U.S. media. Visions of “Hanoi Jane” Fonda may leap to mind as Stone—who, in a tactic both admirable and egocentric, is front and center in every scene—comes face to face with numerous Chávez-loving locals. He even directs his subject through a humanizing “childhood memories” sequence that wouldn’t be out of place in one of his bombastic fictional efforts.
Stone can’t help but be Stone, even when engaging directly with real-life people and events. South of the Border is near worthless as reportage (as distorted and evasive as the Fox News footage it so often demonizes), but it is an endlessly rewarding auteur project. The aural and visual overload that marks most of the director’s work is here in spades—few documentaries look and sound so distinctive. And the filmmaker is an always-engaging presence, especially when he goes on the road to conduct informal interviews with other South American leaders. Stone kicks around a soccer ball with Bolivia’s Evo Morales, and even hits on Argentine president Cristina Kirchner. If Wolf Blitzer ever needs mackin’ lessons.—Keith Uhlich