Before I begin this review, I just want to say that I am sorry I haven’t produced content for this blog in some time. I have been going through some struggles that are both personal and financial that restricted my free time and my abilities to write. I feel like I have ironed out these inconsistances and am now going to produce content on a more regular basis. I am also going to try to beef up the site in general and make more of an effort to be apart of the film review community. Hopefully I will no longer flounder in obscurity. (Can you tell that I am studying for the GRE?)
Now on to the review…
Hugo Chavez is a controversial figure in the United States. I came across his policies and his rhetoric at the height of the Bush administration in a class on international relations. My professor was an obvious liberal that supported countries whose voices have been silenced or surpressed by more vocal countries. So her sympathies obviously laid in Mr. Chavez’s favor. She talked about him incessantly. I learned more and more about modern socialism through her lectures on Chavez and a couple other prominent figures in the political field. Since this enlightening class, I lost track of what Chavez was doing. He was no longer making international headlines because of the things he said against President Bush. I forgot about him. That is until I checked my reddit feed (Yes I am have an incurable disease and that disease is produced by a weird white alien with red eyes. It is contagious.) on March 5th. The top hit was Hugo Chavez’s death. It was shocking to say the least. I thought I would have the rest of my life to study him, maybe even see his country for myself. But that was not the case. So now I am catching up on the policies, the rhetoric, and the controversies he incited. I was going to start with a documentary that has been in my queue for ages. I thought it would give me some insight into this mysterious figure. That was not the case.
I am not a fan of Oliver Stone. I will admit that now, before I start to rip on this film. I feel like he makes obvious dribble and is so self important that he must fall over all the time because of the weight of his bloated ego. He ruined the legacy of The Doors, he produced schizo bullshit that inspired a whole wealth of horrible copy cats, and he pushes his self satsified liberal politics to such a point that it ruins it for the rest of liberals that are probably more level headed than he is. This might sound harsh, but I am a harsh person.
I like documentaries that have a strong view point, but can show both sides of the coin. For instance I will take the last film I reviewed on here: The Queen of Versailles. The couple that was featured in the film ruined a lot of low to middle income families when they promised things that these families could not afford. They took their money and ran. But that does not make them horrible people. They are human. They have both faults and endearing things about them. The camera does not shy away from the hotel mogul’s bad moments. In fact they make a point in showing just how focused on money he can be. But he is still a man that loves his wife and his kids. This does not happen with this film. Chavez is shown as a saint come down to rescue Venezuela from the horrible white people. He is not a three dimensional character. He is just the vessel to fuel the propaganda. Mr. Chavez is just like the man in Queen of Versailles. He has made bad choices and he has made great choices. Why can’t we see Mr. Chavez’s stumbles as well as his successes?
I was also offended by the off handed way he presented other figures of state from neighboring countries. They became nothing more than talking heads. These people who fought a hard battle to become leaders of their respective countries were only given a couple minutes each to say how Mr. Chavez paved the way for them to emerge. While this is probably true, each one has an unique story that deserved more development than Oliver Stone guiding them through a garden walk. These figures are all unique figures in their respective countries history, and they are trying to make waves that look similar to Mr. Chavez’s work but vary slightly in the detail. That is because South America is not just one large country. It is instead made up of several small countries that were each dealt their small and unique hand. One country is ruled by drug moguls, another country went into a severe depression that saw their currency be devalued beyond any recognition and yet another country had a brutal history of suppressive dictators. But each figure interviewed here has helped their respective country come out of a depressive state. This is all glossed over for clips of one figure dribbling a soccer ball with Mr. Stone and another figure talking about how slow men are (the political figure was a woman who was particularly interesting and fiery).
Instead of focusing on these potentially fertile grounds for true insight, Mr. Stone decides to focus instead on the United States trying to overthrow Mr. Chavez and all the sneaky ways that they are doing it. I get it. The United States government especially during the Bush administration is a bad and oppressive government, but this ardent focus on clips of Fox News, CNN and other major new sources getting facts about Mr. Chavez completely wrong undercuts Mr. Chavez’s true accomplishments. The media sources, the government and key political figures in the United States are almost always wrong. This is not news to me, nor should it be news to anyone else interested in this subject matter. By choosing to focus on this crap, Mr. Stone is putting his focus back on the States, instead of the intended focus which is Mr. Chavez and South America.
While I seem almost universally negative about this film, Mr. Stone could not bury completely the good deeds these political figures are doing for their countries. The ideas that several of them bring up and the ardent focus they have on bettering their respective countries is obvious. I just wish that the film showed a more complete picture these ideas instead of focusing on irrelevant stuff. If you want to know more about Mr. Chavez and his socialist ideals I would suggest listening to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now and doing your own research across multiple platforms. Don’t trust just one source. Be skeptical. Be idealistic. That is the best way to honor Mr. Hugo Chavez’s memory.