South of the Border (N/A)

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Review byMatthew Turner29/07/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 78 mins

Engaging, frequently fascinating and ultimately uplifting documentary that deserves to be seen as widely as possible, if only to piss off the Fox News network.

What's it all about?
Directed by Oliver Stone, South of the Border is the logical follow-up to Comandante (2003) and Looking for Fidel (2004), during which Stone conducted one-on-one interviews with Fidel Castro. Attempting to counter the US media's rabid demonisation of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the film begins as a series of interviews with Chavez himself, intercut with particularly offensive examples of propaganda and outright lies from the US media.

However, during the course of the film, Stone decides to talk to seven other South American presidents in the region, seeking their views on both Chavez and the US. He duly interviews Bolivia's Evo Morales, Brazil's Lula da Silva, Argentina's Cristina Kirchner (and her husband and predecessor Nestor Kirchner), Paraguay's Fernando Lugo, Ecuador's Rafael Correa (last seen in Joe Berlinger's Crude) and Cuba's Raul Castro and the results are both surprising and ultimately uplifting.

The Good
The interviews are genuinely fascinating and occasionally horrifying, such as when Lula da Silva relates his attempts to pay off his country's debt to the IMF (International Monetary Fund). Chavez comes across particularly well, driving Stone to his home town and joking around with a child's bicycle.

There's a fair amount of humour in the film too, whether it's Chavez joking that “That's where we're building the Iranian atomic bomb” (Stone's panicked reaction: “Don't say that!”) or a rather formal-looking kickabout with Evo Morales.

The Great
Aside from the riveting interviews, South of the Border is equally strong on documenting the political changes that have taken place in South America in the last ten years, to the point where a common currency and the setting up of the South American equivalent of the European Union are now tentatively under discussion. Most importantly, the film establishes that, far from being enemies of America, Chavez, et al want to be treated as equals to the US, to strengthen their own regional ties, control their own resources and become financially independent of the IMF.

Worth seeing?
It's fair to say that South of the Border offers very much a president's-eye view of the countries concerned, but the film stands as a necessary counterpoint to the shocking propaganda perpetrated by the US media and any film that will piss off Fox News deserves to be seen as widely as possible. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 18/02/2020 17:28

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