Filmmaker Oliver Stone’s controversial documentary of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez premiered at last September’s Venice Film Festival amidst much attention and gossip. Had Chávez been required to pay his own way to Italy, while Stone’s travel expenses were comped? Why was the South American leader not officially announced to the audience (ultimately Stone took the liberty of raising the president’s hand to present him to the crowd)? Time magazine deemed that early autumn evening as “amateur night,” saying South of the Border was “lopsided and cheerleadery.”
But now, Americans will have the chance to decide for themselves what to make of the 70-minute documentary, thanks to the efforts of Cinema Libre. On June 25, the distributor will release South of the Border in New York, followed quickly by an L.A. premiere on July 2. “Not only is it a genuine honor to work with one of the greatest American directors, but his insightful documentary shows how these leaders of Latin America are being intentionally villanized by the U.S. mass media,” Cinema Libre’s Philippe Diaz told Reuters. “This unique dialogue needed the eye and the courage of a director like Stone to convince us that these leaders are fighting for a more humane society, which means defending themselves against American corporate interests.”
Stone undertook this project with Chávez after his initial idea to document Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was turned down by the Iranian president. For South of the Border, Stone enlisted the help of British-Pakistani commentator Tariq Ali, who had already worked with Chávez to write the 2006 book Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope.