Venezuelan-raised actress objects to “propaganda” film about Hugo Chavez
The Cuban-born, Venezuelan-raised actress Maria Conchita Alonso will lead a protest against Oliver Stone’s documentary “South of the Border” when the filmmaker appears at a screening and Q&A for the film on Friday.
In the past, Alonso has been an outspoken critic of actors Sean Penn and Danny Glover (her co-stars in “Colors” and “Predator 2,” respectively), who have expressed support for Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Both rulers are shown in a favorable light in Stone’s documentary, which the New York Times’ Stephen Holden called “a provocative, if shallow, exaltation of Latin American socialism.”
“Oliver Stone is a great director, but he’s the minister of propaganda for Chavez,” Alonso tells TheWrap. “He doesn’t show the truth of the poverty in Venezuela, he doesn’t show the shortages of food and medicine and electricity in the whole country. It’s one of the worst countries in the world in crime rate, in economy, in poverty, and he doesn’t show that.
“And how can a filmmaker like him support a government that controls all media, closes independent outlets, and arrests journalists both foreign and domestic?” (Photo, right, by michaelcalasphotography.com.)
Alonso says she will lead a peaceful protest on Friday outside the Laemmle’s Monica 4-Plex in Santa Monica, where Stone is scheduled to do a Q&A session after the 7:20 p.m. showing of his film.
“We’re just trying to let him know that we are against his film, that it is all lies,” she says. “That’s all we can do right now. We don’t have the money to make a million-dollar documentary like he did, so what else can we do?”
Alonso says she wants Stone to answer a couple of questions about his film: where did he get the money to finance it, and why did he “refuse to interview everyday Venezuelan people about their lives under this oppressive regime?”
Stone has referred to the film, a travelogue in which the director plays a prominent onscreen role, as a deliberate counterbalance to negative portrayals in the U.S. media of Chavez.
“It’s a 101 introduction to a situation in South America that most Americans and Europeans don’t know about,” he told the New York Times, blasting “years and years of blighted journalism.”
The director added, “I think there has been so much unbalance that we are definitely a counter to that.”
In an interview with IFC.com, Stone described Chavez like this:
“He's gruff, he's bluff, he puts his foot in his mouth sometimes, and he doesn't have the style that we're used to in the West for our leaders … But I like the guy because he means and does what he says. He operates for the people. The guy is not getting rich, he's living very austerely, and he busted his old friends who became corrupt. He's delivered the goods, said he would give the oil profits back to the people, and no one I know has kept his word like he has.”
“South of the Border” has drawn lukewarm reviews in its festival screenings and limited release. Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman called the film, which currently has a less-than-50 percent positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes, “rose-colored agitprop.”
Alonso says she’s also asked her friend Edward James Olmos to show Stone’s movie back-to-back with the more critical documentary “Crossing Our Borders,” at the upcoming Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival. Her dream, she says, would be for both films to screen, and then for her to face Stone afterwards in a “tete a tete.”
“It’s really like a comedy,” says Alonso of "South of the Border." “He shows Chavez like a clown, which is what he really is. I can’t disagree: he’s a funny and charismatic guy. But he’s bad.”