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South of the Border

Catching up with Latin America's left-leaning leaders

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Director Oliver Stone visits the presidents of Latin America's left-leaning regimes and takes his camera. His film -- more a promotional round-up than a documentary -- is like having dinner with a friend who can't stop talking about what he's really interested in, but who fails to explain it properly or make it interesting. Viewers will have to bring a lot of their own knowledge of 20th-century Latin America (and the U.S.'s involvement there) to keep up. (Plus, brush up on the 19th century's Simon Bolivar.) For larger context, there are a couple academics and journalists who weigh in; for "opposing views," Stone includes undated footage from network and cable-news shows. But mostly Stone talks to the jefes, including Hugo Chavez, of Venezuela (who accidently breaks a kid's bike on camera); Cuba's Raul Castro; Cristina Kirchner, of Argentina; Lula da Silva, of Brazil; and Bolivia's Evo Morales, with whom Stone chews coca leaves. Not surprisingly, these politicians explain how much better things are since they took office and told the IMF to jump in a lake (or at least, got prickly with their richer neighbor to the north). Even conceding his better intentions, Stone's focus -- that Latin American nations may be finding a new independence of sorts -- is simply too broad a topic for a 75-minute movie. In English, and Spanish, with subtitles. Starts Fri., Oct. 8. Oaks

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