Left tide

Samuel Grove reviews South of the Border, directed by Oliver Stone

July 25, 2010
3 min read

Aside from his Hollywood bio-pics, Oliver Stone has also compiled a respectable number of films on Latin American politics. After a film on El Salvador, and two documentaries on Cuba, Stone’s fourth venture into Latin American politics, South of the Border, was originally to be a documentary just about Venezuela and its president Hugo Chavez.

As indicated by the title, it quickly develops into a more general documentary about the tide of left-wing governments that has swept across Latin America in the last decade.

Stone also spends time (although perhaps not enough) elucidating the US government’s more favoured weapon of choice in the region – economic control via the International Monetary Fund. What the film could have added, but didn’t, is that the IMF’s stated proposals are as fraudulent as their purpose. What is marketed as free trade is in fact a mixture of liberalisation and protectionist policies designed in the interests of the framers.

Nonetheless it is the parochial interests of the US, juxtaposed with Chavez’s Bolivarian commitment to independence, that are emphasised repeatedly. Considerably less emphasis (perhaps with a view to not alienating a liberal US audience) is given to Chavez’s vocal denunciations of global capitalism in general and the initial steps the country is taking towards a socialist alternative. One cannot be too critical on this point.

Many other countries of the region are distancing themselves from Washington and it is the story of Latin American independence and integration – the ‘left tide’ sweeping the continent – that occupies Stone’s attention in the second half of the film. The most informative interview, aside from Chavez, is with Nestor Kirchner, the former president of Argentina. Kirchner discusses the 2005 Summit of the Americas conference at which Latin American countries were able to defeat the US’s economic plans for the region.

‘We acted collectively and in coordination,’ Kirchner explains. ‘It was one of the most important steps ever taken in the region.’ Sustained coordination and solidarity is essential if Latin America is to continue on the path towards genuine independence.

The film is not without its faults. To begin with it is rather too preoccupied with its presidential interviewees, and rather less interested in the social movements that brought them into power. (Others might see this as one of the film’s strengths, as there is no other film that has taken this approach, while there are many documentaries about the different social movements in Latin America.)

Stone’s efforts to bond with Paraguay’s president come across as patronising, and in the case of current Argentinian president Christina Kirchner downright sexist: ‘How many sets of shoes do you have?’ Nonetheless the film does a commendable job of shedding light on a dynamic process underway in Venezuela and in other Latin American countries – one that the western media systematically ignores or misrepresents.

‘The media will always try to criminalise the fight against neoliberalism, colonialism and imperialism,’ explains the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales. With South of the Border, Stone has provided a welcome antidote to Morales’ lament.

South of the Border is released in UK cinemas on Friday 30 July. southoftheborder.dogwoof.com


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen

Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving

Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today

Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant

Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’

Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue

Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK

A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank

News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions

Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release

Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts

‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette

The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.

How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op

Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU

Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity

Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson

Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release

University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.

Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.

Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History

Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.

A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas

Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'

The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion

The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.

Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.

Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism

What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry