Cubans Have Explosive Personalities

Dawn Gable

Oliver Stone and Hugo Chavez. Photo: wikimedia commons

HAVANA TIMES, July 4  — “Cubans have explosive personalities, but have had to learn to be patient,” President Raul Castro told Oliver Stone in his newest film South of the Border, while confirming that after 50 years of struggle, Cubans are willing to continue on.  But President Castro rejected Stone’s suggestion that the new leftist leaders in Latin America are the heirs of the Cuban Revolution, saying that each of them are following their own path based on their own experiences.

A new world is possible Oliver!

Stone has been known for making movies about controversial personalities ranging from Nixon and “W” to Fidel and Jim Morrison (singer for The Doors) in such a way that he asks the viewer to “like” or at least show compassion for the protagonist.  South of the Border is no different although less focused on one individual.  In this author’s opinion, the film is certainly worth the ticket price as it is studded with precious gems delivered by the featured presidents, despite the mediocrity and laziness Stone brings to the endeavor.

That’s “Chávez” with an accent above the “A”

The first segment of the film is set in Venezuela and its main character is Hugo Chávez, whose name Stone refused to pronounce correctly throughout his narration of the ENTIRE film, (Equally disrespectful was his Anglican mispronunciation of Simón Bolívar).  Unfortunately for those who know a little about Venezuela’s recent history, this segment is a real yawner.  Footage of the failed coup attempt against Chávez in 2002 from the documentary The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is pieced together with stock clips of the 1989 riots in Caracas and Chávez’ own failed coup attempt in 1992.

Don’t say that!

The only new footage of Venezuela was the President visiting his home town and pointing out the merits of cooperatives and new agriculture projects.  While this was educational and very entertaining, especially when Hugo makes a joke about the corn processing plant they are touring actually being where Iran is building its atomic bomb-to which Stone replies “Don’t say that!”- the viewer does not learn about the many social participation programs and “missions” underway in Venezuela, which would have been much more interesting than yet another rehashing of the 2002 coup.

Those leaves are no good

From Chávez on a bicycle, we go to chewing coca and kicking around a football with Evo Morales.  Oddly as the narration is bringing us to Bolivia and reminiscing about the murder there of Che Guevara, the visual is of a statue of El Che in Santa Clara, Cuba instead of one of those actually in Bolivia.

Filmmakers Oliver Stone, Tariq Ali and Mark Weisbrot at the premier of South of the Border in the U.S. capital. Photo: wikimedia commons

But Stone knows no difference, just as he doesn’t know that the coca leaves in front of him are old.  After teaching Stone the proper way to chew a new batch of leaves, looking annoyed, Evo concedes to play a bit of football with Stone.  One gets the feeling that Evo isn’t happy with being treated like a caricature instead of a serious leader.

Nobody asks a man how many pairs of shoes he has

The current President Kirshner felt the same way and set Stone straight when he asked her how many pairs of shoes she owns before moving on to discuss important matters like the disastrous effects of neolibralism in Latin America.  Mr. Kirshner, for his part, recalled when U.S. President “W” personally confided in him that war was just about making money.

End the embargo, war in the Middle East & invite Hugo to U.S.

In Brazil President Lula didn’t ask the U.S. for much, just an end to the embargo against Cuba and the military occupation of the Middle East and, for good measure, a friendly invite to President Chávez.  He also spoke of a common South American currency and a united constitution!

As long as we can have a military base in Miami

Back in Havana, Ecuadorian President Correa, who speaks fine English, spoke in Spanish to Oliver’s cameras using Fidel Castro’s long time English interpreter, Juanita Vera.  Correa asked the U.S. to be reasonable: if the U.S. thinks it is no problem to have a foreign military’s base in one’s country, then fine.  The U.S. can keep its base in Manta, that is, if Ecuador can open a base in Miami!  Of course we all know that his logic prevailed and there is no longer a base in Manta.

Now we are millions

The leaders’ overall message is made clear by the film.  The people of America’s South are uniting and demanding respect and equal treatment by the continent’s North …and its local representatives like Bolivian ex-president Sanchez de Losada, who could barely speak Spanish after living so long in the U.S. as President Kirshner pointed out.  But is the example of the Cuban Revolution to blame?  Or is it Chávez fault?  Of course not, it has been a long time coming.  In the film Evo Morales quotes tribal ancestor Tupak Katari’s last words before he was drawn and quartered by the Spanish: I die as one, but I will come back as millions.

“Now we are millions.” Evo smiles.

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8 thoughts on “Cubans Have Explosive Personalities

  • I think it’s good for you to point out weaknesses in the film but since all the corporate media are slamming it, and it does have some worthwhile content, I think it would be too bad if the effect of your review is to discourage people from seeing it at all. The bottom line is: do we want “average Americans” who DON’T know anything about what’s going on in Latin America (and probably won’t notice the mispronunciations anyway) to see this film? That is, does it have enough worthwhile content that we want people to become aware of? You may think that Havanatimes readers are the ones likely to know more, and you are writing for them, but ultimately unless a lot of people go to the first showings of the film it won’t be carried by theaters and theater chains so that the rest –less well-informed — people can see it.

  • @ Michael, I certainly did not intend to steer you away from seeing the movie and I definately would not call it a waste of time. In fact, I specifically said that the presidents saved the film in spite of the problems with it. How often to do you get to hear LA presidents speaking candidly up here? Almost never! And this will hopefully reach out to a much larger audience than TRWNBT…. to average folks who are not already in the choir. We should certainly be very thankful to Stone for that.

  • Thanks, Dawn, for the heads to not to waste our time on this “stinker”! Too bad the “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” about the attempted coup in 2002, did not receive wider play up here; Stone’s film undoubltedly will. That documentary far more fascinating. Actually, much of Stone’s recent work is neither interesting nor engaging. Having the right intentions are not enough. Lets hope he returns to making good FICTION (or at least “fictionalized”) films (like “Wall Street,” and “Platoon”). The latter tell us certain Truths without tripping up and becoming confused in a jumble of little truths.

  • Thanks, Dawn. Fine article.

    We went to see the film night before last at the Laemmle 4-plex in Santa Monica. Stone’s constant mispronunciations during narration were utterly stupid and maddening.

    Also, the English subtitles were pure white with no drop-shadow or anything to make them stand out. This stupidity by the filmmaker was compounded by the fact that many of the Presidents interviewed were wearing white shirts that often made the subtitles unreadable. So much for Stone as a director.

    It also came out clearly by what Stone said on camera that he loves capitalism, but not what capitalism does–the definition of a liberal, not of a socialist.

    Stone and several others answered questions afterward from the stage. Hardly anything of substance emerged, except for responses to one UCI drama student’s question about cooperatives in Latin America.

    Thanks again, Dawn. The two lines from your article that make Stone’s insipid film worthwhile are 1) “Mr. Kirshner, for his part, recalled when U.S. President “W” personally confided in him that war was just about making money” and

    2) “Tupak Katari’s last words before he was drawn and quartered by the Spanish: I die as one, but I will come back as millions.”

  • An OUTSTANDING article !!!!!
    I’m appaled by Oliver Stone’s lack of manners by not pronouncing names correctly. That goes to show you that they want to AMERICANISE everything they touch.

  • Dear Sam,

    Thanks for your comments, but I think you need to look into the “closing media outlets” statement a bit further… because there has been no arbitrary closing of media in Venezuela since Alfredo Pena, opposition mayor of Caracas, shut down Catia TV in, oh, let’s see, I think it was like 2003-ish.

  • In a way, im sad Oliver Stone was hamfisted in his treatment of these leaders. By (1) idolizing and (2) caricaturing them, he ultimately limited the real effect of the movie, which was to expand American debate over these leaders and why they have relevance, and to bring a more unbiased view of them. Also, did he let Chavez explain some of the more controversial decisions he’s made? One of the reasons Americans don’t like him is because he shuts down media outlets. I know his explanation for why, but most Americans don’t because the media here never covers the perspective of his government.

  • Great article Dawn!
    Gets to the heart of the matter…

    Rojo Rojito


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