South of the Border | Movie+TV Reviews | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

South of the Border 

Movie Review

Michael Moore appears to have exhausted himself — burned out, at least temporarily, in his mission to make the world a better place via documentary films. So it’s fitting that he makes a feisty appearance in the opening moments of South of the Border, and a stroke of cultural luck that, of all people, Oliver Stone has picked up where Moore left off.

In a clip, Moore rails at CNN — represented by Wolf Blitzer — for initially swallowing the Bush Iraq-invasion rationale hook, line and sinker and failing to do the sort of fact checking and analysis a major news organization has a sacred obligation to do.

It’s fun to watch Blitzer squirm and essentially apologize. But Moore’s condemnation extends beyond CNN to virtually every major institution of mainstream American media. Lies were press-released by the White House and, to a devastating degree, even the most venerated newspapers and television outlets parroted those mistruths. By virtue of its laziness, the press lied, too.

Moore’s rant provides a perfect springboard for Stone’s condemnation of a similar, potentially just as insidious ruse. While the press daily directs the eyes of the world toward the Middle East, an enlightened transformation is sweeping South America, and no one in the media seems much inclined to talk about it.

Except, that is, when news organizations feel like recycling fabrications disseminated by the previous administration. For example: that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is a ruthless dictator who poses a threat to U.S. interests. (He’s been democratically elected again and again.) Stone includes a jaw-dropping clip in which a gaggle of Fox News hosts repeatedly mispronounce the word “coca” as “coco,” dissolving into giggles as they falsely report that Chávez is also a drug addict.

To prove just how unreliable this nation’s news coverage has become, the director makes a whirlwind tour of five countries and records informal conversations with left and center-left heads of state who’ve come to power in recent years. Most of the film is devoted to his eye-opening visit with the Venezuelan president, whom Stone never represents as flawless. But Chávez turns out to be unexpectedly intelligent, forward thinking, jovial, beloved by his people and candid about his contempt for George W. Bush.

Venezuela, Chávez informs his guest, is the world’s third largest supplier of petroleum. So, we are not too surprised to learn that the U.S. helped stage a coup against Chávez in 2002. It failed. He was briefly taken into custody, but his people and his military rebelled and returned him to power. The tale has a familiar ring to it. “Here’s Bush’s plan,” Chávez explains, “First, Hugo Chávez ... oil.” Then, “Saddam Hussein ... oil.”

Conversations with other leaders reveal a common goal: getting out from under the thumb of the United States and receiving treatment as equals on the world stage. My bet is, they also wouldn’t mind a little less demonizing and a far more fair and balanced portrait in the American press of the strides they’ve made in reducing poverty, improving health care and education, and generally raising their people’s standard of living. At one point, Rafael Correa of Ecuador is asked whether he finds the media’s misrepresentation of him hurtful. “I’d be more worried,” he says with a smile, “if they spoke well of me.”

South of the Border certainly isn’t the last word on its subject. But it’s an excellent conversation starter and, of the two new Oliver Stone releases in theaters, easily the more significant addition to the legendary director’s filmography.

* Theaters and Showtimes

* Running time: 78 minutes

* Not rated

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

About The Author

Rick Kisonak

Rick Kisonak

Rick Kisonak is a film reviewer for Seven Days.


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in Category

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2022 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401

Advertising Policy  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  About Us  |  Help
Website powered by Foundation