Oliver Stone wraps up 'Border' tour

Latin American round of premieres reaches final destination

BUENOS AIRES -- American director Oliver Stone deflected criticism that his film about South American presidents provided a glossed-over picture of the region's political landscape and its controversial leaders.

In a packed auditorium at the University of Buenos Aires' Law School, Stone presented "South of the Border" with a public interview alongside producer Fernando Sulichin and scriptwriter Mark Weisbrot. Moderated by local journalist Jorge Lanata, the dialogue would later turn into a press conference that included an open microphone for the public.

The interview was the final event in his promotional tour through the region, which had started last week in Caracas with the premiere of his film, which is based on a series of interviews with Latin American presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina, Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva of Brazil, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, and Raul Castro of Cuba.

"This is a film about Latin America and the movement that has sprung up in the region," Stone said. "I'm trying to show the presidents' human side and the epic changes they have produced. These are good people."

Stone was quickly faced with criticism about the film's apparently naive or simplistic view of the region's leaders, which he responded to by describing it as "an introduction to a continent the American people knows nothing about." He also focused on how American mainstream media often refers to these democratically elected leaders as "dictators," an issue the film stresses and even mocks.

When asked about his opinions regarding local politics, the filmmaker expressed his support for Cristina Fernandez's position on the Audiovisual Services Bill, an antitrust legislation that was passed recently after a long ublic debate but is now judicially blocked and waiting the Supreme Court's ruling to come into effect. "The existence of monopolies is no good, and it doesn't do any good to society," he said. Stone described Kirchner as "a brilliant and very focused person, a full range woman," while her husband and former president Nestor Kirchner was depicted as "a real hero."

Earlier this week, Chavez, Morales and Correa had joined Stone for the premieres in their respective countries. In Caracas, Chavez accompanied him to the theater and referred to the director as "a friend of Venezuela." The next day, he reported on his TV show "Hello, President" that they had had a phone conversation where they discussed the possibility of a sequel. "Hugo is a bear. Lovable and selfless," Stone said Thursday, sparking some laughter in the audience.

While the film's focus stays longer with Chavez than with any other president, Stone considered it unfair to describe it as a film about Chavez. "The movie is not about Chavez, it's about a movement," Stone said. "My film shows the face of a new continent. Nothing like this has ever happened before, it's a historical phenomenon."

The film will be distributed in the U.S. by Cinema Libre and is scheduled for a limited release on June 25. Recalling his ordeal with his unreleased 2003 film about Fidel Castro, "Comandante," a cheerfully resigned Stone said his expectations regarding boxoffice reaction to "South of the Border" were "terrible."

"I make fiction films with my right hand and documentaries with my left one," he said. "But this film could very well destroy my career."