South of the Border, Oliver Stone's documentary about the leftist revolution in several South American countries, wasn't exactly embraced by critics when it hit theaters in June.
Entertainment Weekly summed it up as "rose-colored agitprop."
The New York Times' Stephen Holden called it a "provocative, if shallow, exaltation of Latin American socialism."
Variety's Jay Weissberg wrote it off with this: "A predictable compendium of Fox News clips on one side and peasants glad-handing their leaders on the other, the docu offers little genuine information and no investigative research, adopting a style even more polemical than Stone's earlier docus on Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat."
Anthony Quinn observed in the Independent UK that, "While you may applaud his cocking snook at the American media, it becomes clear that Stone is ill-equipped to conduct a serious political analysis of the continent."
Karina Longworth of our big sistah paper the Village Voice even piled on: "South of the Border's subjects are masters at cooking bullshit, and Stone just eats it up."
Many who hated the film, and even some who liked it a little better than that, agreed that Stone was too enamored with his leftist president subjects, too dismissive of their political opposition and not interested at all in the average people in the streets. Such criticisms are valid, and I, too, cringed when he stage directed a bicycle riding scene with Venezuela's Hugo Chávez or kicked a soccer ball with Bolivia's Evo Morales.
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But as South of the Border is released on DVD today, one must applaud Stone for at least starting a discussion no one else bothers to north of the border, at least not in the popular media.
And it is revelatory to hear Argentina's President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in her own words, talk of resisting International Monetary Fund pressure against her country paying back what it owed the IMF. Or learning her husband and predecessor, Néstor Kirchner, pitched a Marshall Plan for South America to then-U.S. President George W. Bush, who dismissed it as "a Democrat idea" and actually told his fellow world leader that war is the best way to revitalize an economy.
I can't recall an Archer Daniel Midland-sponsored news show relating how Ecuador President Rafael Correa countered the resistance from the U.S. to maintain a military base in Ecuador by suggesting the U.S. allow Ecuador to maintain a base in Miami. Who else is connecting the dots between the long history of U.S. government meddling, U.S. media demonizing and IMF failing in South America with the average people rising up and electing leftist leaders like those above and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Fernando Lugo of Paraguay?
Stone recognizes something is going on in South America that is largely ignored by the U.S. media. If members of that fine industry have a problem with the bullshit he's eating in South of the Border, then they should get the fuck down there and give us some truth.