Oliver Stone’s new documentary ‘South of the Border’ chronicles the emergence of progressive governments in Latin America’s, their quest for social and political transformation and their growing independence from Washington. Roberto Navarrete interviews Oliver Stone and Tariq Ali (one of the film’s scriptwriters) to find out some background
RN: You have made three films on Latin America, two of them on Fidel Castro. What motivated you to make this new documentary about Latin America?
OS: Also don’t forget about ‘Salvador’ in 1986. That was about El Salvador, in Central America, which was a tragedy. So I went back, I like Latin America; I view South America as the underdog in this situation. As a moviemaker I tend to make movies about people who don’t get a fair shake. I think it’s wrong what’s going on. I met Chavez for the first time in 2007, then I went back in 2008 and he said don’t take my word for it, go and talk to my neighbours. I did. We met seven Presidents in six countries. I said, what’s all the fuss about? Why are we making such a stink about Chavez? There is something going wrong. When the United States gets so self-interested in destroying somebody, which has happened repeatedly in South America and Central America, there is some motivation. We are looking for that motivation.
RN: The mainstream US media has been rather critical about your film. Are you surprised about this?
OS: No, I’m surprised we were able to take it as far as we have. People will see the movie. There will be an uphill battle, because when the New York Times says don’t see this movie they are lobbying against it.
TA: That also has an opposite effect. A lot of people will say, the way these guys are writing about the movie means there is something fishy here. It encourages people to see it.
RN: It’s more worrying when the Village Voice is so negative.
OS: The Voice for years has been doing that. They are not a liberal organisation in my mind. I think that they are pseudo-liberals. You can get into a whole argument about what it is to be a liberal, or a progressive in America. It’s nitpicking. Nitpicking.
RN: So it’s like The Guardian here in relation to Venezuela?
TA: The Guardian correspondent in Venezuela lives in the leafy suburbs of eastern Caracas and his reporting from Venezuela is totally biased.
RN: You seem to be fascinated by the charisma of the Latin American ’caudillo’, leaders such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. But Latin America is also the birthplace of social movements that have for a long time been fighting for change. How do you see the dynamic relationship between the two, between the leaders on the one hand and the social movements on the other?
TA: These leaders would not be in power were it not for the social movements. There is a link between the two. The social movements in Bolivia helped create the Movement for Socialism, the party of Evo Morales that propelled him into power. The big social movements against the IMF in Venezuela that led to the massacre, the ‘Caracazo’, in which three thousand people were killed produced Chavez. The same movements occurred in Ecuador, in Paraguay. So I don’t see a big divide. Each depends on the other. This divide largely exists in the West where the social movements have died out because they weren’t able to achieve anything. There is hardly a social movement left now in Western Europe. A country like Italy, which had huge social movements – now all gone. Whereas, in South America, one reason they have lasted is because they have managed to achieve something, not a huge amount, but structural reforms to the system.
OS: I would add, not only do I like ‘caudillos’ or strong men, that’s not the same as a dictator, he [Chavez] has obviously been elected. I much admire Nestor Kirchner, an intellectual with volition to do something. Because intellectuals tend to get lost in their will power. Kirchner was strong enough to carry through a reform based on his thinking on economic reform. He is a shining example of a hero to me. He said, himself, in the documentary, my friend Hugo should consider a successor, because too much of one man will backfire and I think that is the problem that Hugo is going to face. He’s too much in the news. He is too controversial. They are making an argument about Hugo Chavez, instead of the argument about right versus left in Latin America.
Roberto Navarrete is an editor of www.alborada.net, a website covering politics, media and culture in Latin America.
South of the Border is released in UK cinemas on Friday 30 July www.southoftheborder.dogwoof.com
The Tipping Point Film Fund will hold a screening of South of the Border (including a panel discussion entitled: Radical Latin American leadership – what’s to be afraid of?) on Friday 30 July at 6:30 PM (details here).
Be sure to see the movie.
Nablus – Israeli forces turned away Palestinian medical teams at a checkpoint erected at Iraq Burin on Saturday morning, telling international medical volunteers that the area was a “closed military zone.”
Head of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society in Nablus Ghassan Hamdan said the volunteers tried to enter the Nablus-area village where the society had prepared to offer a free treatment day at a local clinic.
Hamdan said the team was told by Israeli soldiers at the village entrance that they must turn back because the village was a closed zone. He said that medics and society officials had made several attempts to explain the humanitarian nature of the mission, but soldiers responded saying their orders were to restrict all entry into the area.
An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed that the area was declared a “closed military zone for all non-Palestinians,” but said that an exception was made for the doctors at 11a.m., hours after the group arrived at the checkpoint.
Officials from the society confirmed that the Palestinian and international medical workers were permitted into the area, and condemned the delay, saying it would cause a serious reduction in available medical services for villagers.
The society regularly organizes volunteer programs for doctors, nurses and medics from around the world who donate their time and perform free checkups and treatment to Palestinians without regular access to medical services.
The declaration follows one week after the detention of two young men at a checkpoint installed in the same location the previous Saturday.
Iraq Burin, cut off from Nablus by several checkpoints and roadblocks preventing access to the nearby settlement of Yizhar and Bracha, has held regular protests against continued land confiscations by the settlements and settler-only roads. The two detained were accused of having participated in protests in previous weeks.
According to a report by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, a new Israeli military order passed in January 2010 made gatherings of more than ten people illegal, by reenacting a 1967 law. The group said the law violated the right of assembly for Palestinians, guaranteed by the fourth Geneva Convention.
TOBAS: Israeli occupation forces (IOF) served demolition notices against a mosque and four houses in Yerza village, Tobas district, on Friday, the municipal council chairman Mokhles Masa’eed said.
He told Safa news agency that the notices included the demolition of four houses in addition to the newly built mosque in the village, noting that it was built over an area of 100 square meters.
Masa’eed pointed out that the IOF soldiers also handed him another notification that a villager would stand trial for building in the village’s vicinity.
He underlined that his village inhabitants are constantly targeted by IOF search campaigns, recalling that the soldiers previously halted the work of a bulldozer that was paving a new road linking the village to Tobas city.
He said that the village inhabitants walk on foot or in tractors along rugged land for nine kilometers in order to reach the nearest service center in Tobas city.
Meanwhile, the IOF command announced on Saturday the closure of the Irak Burin village, Nablus district, blocking activists and medical teams from entering it.
Eyewitnesses said that the soldiers stationed at the entrance to the village were blocking anyone from outside the village to enter it so that none would take part in its weekly protest march.
The village is the target of a ferocious campaign on the part of IOF troops and Jewish settlers who plan to confiscate a large chunk of its land.