I have no desire – particularly with an election quickly approaching – to enter into any sort of political discussion or debate and I do not intend to do so here. My discussion of this film will be about the arguments it lays out and their strengths, keeping my own beliefs out of it as best I can. It is not that I do not have strongly held opinions, I most certainly do, it's just that my opinions are my opinions and any attempt to convince people of my opinions will only serve to engender bad feelings, mistrust, and a general sense of discomfort amongst everyone involved. I don't begrudge others their ability to speak on such things and am more than happy to read the opinions of those around me – provided that they're stated with respect – I just don't care to express my own beliefs (other than that everyone should vote).
Filmmaker Oliver Stone has no such qualms. The left-leaning writer/director/producer has a very distinct world view and that view is on full display in his new documentary, South of the Border which is now available on DVD. The film finds Stone venturing to South America to talk with current and past Presidents of countries on that continent to discuss the leftward movement of the area.
The basic premise of the film is that the United States has a relatively poor attitude towards our neighbors to the south, often dictating to them what we'd like to see done and branding lawfully elected officials "dictators" and "enemies" should they choose not to abide by our wishes. Stone argues that these are sovereign nations whose citizens have elected officials and that if we were ordered about as they are ordered about we would be incredibly displeased. Consequently, the argument goes, we shouldn't be surprised when they are, and, beyond that, these leaders are actually doing some great things for their countries.
South of the Border spends the vast majority of its time with Stone hopping from one nation to the next, sitting down with their Presidents and asking those Presidents questions. In specific, he talks to Hugo Chávez (Venezuela); Evo Morales (Bolivia); Lula da Silva (Brazil); Cristina Kirchner and her husband and former President, Néstor Kirchner (Argentina); Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), and Raúl Castro (Cuba). There are also some clips of U.S. politicians and news anchors/reporters discussing South America, but those moments take a backseat to the South Americans themselves. In fact, nearly half the film is focused solely on Hugo Chávez. With Chávez being one of the Presidents in South America who has made the most noise, had one of the more contentious relationships with the United States, and who is a man with a huge personality, the choice is a good one.