Stone film says U.S. demonizes Chavez, other leaders

Mon Sep 7, 2009 3:32pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

VENICE (Reuters) - Director Oliver Stone says the U.S. media and government have demonized Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and other leftist South American leaders, and argues in a new film that they were right to stand up to Washington.

Chavez, who landed in Venice for the film's premiere, has earned a reputation for his outspoken criticism of U.S. policy, and in Stone's "South of the Border" he is sympathetically portrayed as a hero of the people who refuses to be bullied.

Originally an attempt to redress what Stone saw as unfair treatment of Chavez by TV networks and newspapers, the documentary turned into a bigger project and included interviews not only with him but with six other presidents in the region.

"I think the movie, if you've seen it, shows very clearly the level of stupidity in the kind of broad statements that are made about Mr. Chavez," Stone told reporters at the Venice film festival.

"But I didn't want to make a movie only about the American media's attacks. I felt that that was too small for what this man is about. This man is a big phenomenon.

"So we traveled in a road trip kind of movie to visit these other presidents and we saw the positive side of what is going on, the sweeping change in this region. It's a very important historical phenomenon that is ... ignored in America."

Chavez, surrounded by bodyguards, strolled with Stone on the Lido red carpet, posing for pictures and signing autographs like a movie star before receiving a standing ovation at the premiere on Monday.

"What's happening in Latin America is like a Renaissance," the Venezuelan leader told reporters.   Continued...

<p>Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez pose while holding a camera for photographers during a red carpet at the 66th Venice Film Festival September 7, 2009. REUTERS/Tony Gentile</p>