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I have a lot to say about this film. Before I start, I’d like to say I haven’t read one review just yet, and intend to do so once I’m done. I have an idea of what I’ll come across with and I’m willing to bet a lot of the hatchet reviews out there pretty much stem from political views getting in the way and omitting the approach on an open-minded view pertaining to a topic none of us are really in-tuned with, aside from whatever news outlet we use. So sad and shameful seeing as most of these critics work for media companies who lobby their asses off for their favorite incumbents. Oh, well. On more than one occasion I’ve stated Oliver Stone as one of my favorite Directors. Here’s a man who cares less about press or reviews or how he’ll be perceived once completing a film. He’s raised many eye-brows that’s led to many thinking of him like some sort of an outcast seeking a unique form of attention. Whether that’s true or not has no relevance and proof of it is the amount of success this man’s been able to obtain through his visions of what a specific piece should look like. A Vietnam vet who deserves ALL the credit as any other vet, whether you agree with him or not, the man has earned his right to open up untapped topics, write about whatever he pleases and present them to the best of his abilities and interpretation. That’s quite admirable, interesting and important seeing as we live in a world where media’s steered in whichever way money decides it should follow.

This time around, Stone’s enticing look at Latin America at the end of the Bush era and the beginning of the Obama administration should be viewed by anyone interested in understanding both our difficult history and ongoing struggles with our Latin American neighbors. Stone embarks us on a journey through Venezuela, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil and Cuba in 2008/2009 bringing us face to face with their respective leaders and gives us a look at their human sides. Here we learn that things may not be as we have been necessarily told in the mass media with respect to Hugo Chavez and Venezuela and our U.S. involvement in the coup attempt of 2002. Each leader expresses solidarity with his/her counterparts in a common theme of seeking to grow and develop each nation independently of U.S. and European interests, seeking to find their own way. Much of the frustration expressed with the U.S. is due to our interference and efforts to control or dominate economies in Latin America whether it is under the pretext of “free trade” or neo-liberal economic philosophy. This approach has been largely ineffective in maintaining economic stability and the cause of social instability in the region. The results can be seen in the social distortion created when basic food staple prices are raised in response to IMF directives. The fact is our efforts in Latin America have not eradicated poverty and only have had limited success in economic development.

Some of what we learn is disturbing and enlightening. When former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner met with former President George W. Bush at the Summit of the Americas in Mar de Plata, we are shocked to learn when Kirchner suggests that America can best help its neighbors in Latin America with a Marshall Plan, he is categorically rejected by W who tells Kirchner that a Marshall Plan was simply a Democratic party idea, and that instead war would better stimulate the economy, just like he was doing for our country with Iraq and Afghanistan, stimulating the economy through war! Mrs. Kirchner, now Argentina’s President, reminds the audience that Latin America now has elected leaders that actually look like the people they represent. When Ecuadorian President Correa demanded the closure of the U.S. base in Manta, he countered our demand to keep the American base on the condition that Ecuador could establish its own military base in Miami, FL! Suffice it to say we are closing our base in Ecuador. Bolivia’s Morales invites one to consider that the war on drugs has at its foremost, geopolitical ends to maintain U.S. control and military presence in Latin American countries rather than solve the problem. Every leader expresses high hopes that the Obama administration will be different than Bush. Chavez states his hope that Obama will be the FDR of our time and establish a “New Deal” for all. Brazil’s Lula expresses his satisfaction of no longer being under the yoke of the International Monetary Fund, sharing that when he paid off the last IMF loan, the IMF bankers hesitated to accept the final payment. He also expressed the fulfillment of being debt free and able to forge an independent course for his country and provide leadership to the region. Lula states conditions that will immediately improve U.S. Latin America relations including:

1) Lifting the embargo on Cuba (Which makes sense! I mean we deal and owe A LOT to China. Flip Flop? I think so!)

2) President Obama meeting one on one with President Chavez. (You don’t have to kneel to the man or subject to his ways. One diplomatic chat to another…)

3) Obtaining peace in the Middle East. (That’s a mission impossible seeing as our policies still seem the same.)

(Sad thing is under Obama – who I still feel is the man for the job – for some reason it’s still somewhat more of the same.)

ALL state a love and admiration for American people and a desire for good relations with us on an equal footing in mutual respect. Their issues with the U.S. are with our foreign policy, which obviously needs updating and revision. They beg the question to us whether we want to be meaningfully involved with our neighbors or remain a source of historical resentment. The United States has intervened fifty five times in Latin America.

Something I noticed and enjoyed a lot about this piece is how molded we (and others) can be. Whether in the U.S. or not, the mass media plays a huge part in how we generally size out situations within our back-yard or abroad. This approach on us pretty much defines how we’re treated like a flock of sheep and just suck in all the filtered information written in order to support a cause a leader or even a country. Yes, this happens EVERYWHERE, but I think as we move along, something I’ve noticed is the progression within our youth and their revolt towards being told what to believe or do. Respect is key and without it there’s way too much disarray and those actions still go on today. As an American citizen I don’t think we need an empire. We’ve established who we are and the influential power we possess around the world, it’s time we just back off, worry about the betterment of our kind as a WHOLE and do away with all the arrogance not all, but most tend to hold on to. This would apply a lot more for those we elect to run our “democracy.” Sure you can argue there’s need to dominate the world, but along with that comes opening your eyes among what transpires in our own country and ulterior motives for beneficial purposes – especially with those we perceive as “2nd. Class citizens.”

In the end, this film left me wanting to see and hear more. I would have LOVED to have seen Oliver speak to the more American leaning countries like Colombia where we have 7 military bases and Peru, who also has no issue letting others tell them what to do. Of course along the lines Chile and perhaps have somewhat of a chat and feedback from Guiana seeing as their only a pinky nail in a continent run by bigger and more defiant countries. That’s just me. On a side note, fortunately for me I speak Spanish and didn’t need any subtitles. However; the person who doesn’t, there are some – not a lot – moments where subtitles blend in with scenery and specific clothing which left a few a bit frazzled due to not being able to read what was being said. Overall, this is GREAT film to sink your teeth in. Of the documentaries I have seen that can teach you how to think in this manner, I consider mandatory viewing by anyone interested in diplomacy and international relations to see Errol Morris’ The Fog of War (with Robert McNamara). I now add Oliver Stone’s South of the Border to that list. Don’t miss this documentary…

Grade: B+
Genre: Documentary
Roars: 4.5 Out of 5

Rated: NR / Run Time: 1 Hr. 20 Min.

Cast as themselves: Presidents Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Lula da Silva (Brazil), Cristina Kirchner (Argentina), Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), Rafael Correa (Ecuador) and Raul Castro (Cuba).

Director: Oliver Stone

Opens on limited release in NY, LA and TX… check local listings.