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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Stone ignores Chávez’s faults

    Just a week before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern that Venezuela’s non-transparent purchasing of weapons could lead to an arms race in the region, Hugo Chávez appeared at the Venice Film Festival alongside director Oliver Stone to see Stone’s new documentary “South of the Border.”
    The friendship between Stone and Chávez seems to run deep for some reason. Stone said of Chávez in a report in the Los Angeles Times, “He’s open and warmhearted and big, and a fascinating character.”
    Now, I’m all for friendship and male bonding. I even like daffodils and lollipops and fairy tales that make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And you can add to that prancing through the meadow with all my imaginary fairy friends. But there’s something about the relationship between Stone and Chávez that doesn’t make me think happy thoughts.
    Perhaps Stone has never been the most serious documentarian, but I would like to think documentaries about Latin America would give us a lot of information that perhaps we’re not as familiar with as we should be. The U.S. has long intervened in Latin American affairs, even wars. Much of it was none of our business and was only motivated by financial interests. Surely these are some of the themes explored in “South of the Border.”
    But to what extent are they explored? From the reviews I have read and from what Stone himself has said about the film, it doesn’t go very deep at all. The film shows Chávez looking goofy on a bicycle and greeting supporters. It shows Stone interviewing other Latin American presidents – he kicks a soccer ball around with Bolivia’s Evo Morales.
    Since I am one of those guys that’s all about fun and good times and fairy tales, maybe I can understand Stone wanting to vacation in the tropics and hang around rich people. However, when I come across some of Stone’s statements about the aims of his project, I realize he is simply a documentary director who seems to have abandoned the critical search for truth only to be caught up in touchy-feely propaganda.
    For example, he has said Chávez was the “star” of his movie.
    “A dark side? There’s a dark side to everything. Why do you seek out the dark side when the guy is doing good things?” Stone told the Associated Press. “He is a democrat and there is opposition to him, and he’s not perfect. But he is doing tremendous things for Venezuela and the region.”
    OK, fine. But if you’re going to make a documentary about him, make an informing one. Don’t leave out the fact that Chávez is essentially a dictator who has been working for years to buy out media outlets that oppose him and pass policies that undermine freedom of expression. Not to mention corruption and a failure to maintain public order and prevent lawlessness.
    As Clinton said, “They should be putting in place procedures and practices to ensure that the weapons they buy are not diverted to insurgent groups or organizations like drug trafficking gangs and other cartels.”
    Chávez is a revolutionary leader who has done good things in the way of food, jobs and education for his country. He has also been involved in the worst form of polemics, whether it’s the opposition party in his own Venezuela or opposition from other nations, and has attacked freedom of the press.
    As Venezuela is a leader in oil production and a member of OPEC, Chávez can give his people bread. But man can’t live on bread alone, and documentary directors shouldn’t turn him into some sort of god.
    Matt Watson is a graduate student majoring in Spanish. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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    Stone ignores Chávez’s faults