"Was Hugo Chávez really the anti-American force we've been told he is?" asks Oliver Stone in the Guardian. "Once we began our journey, we found ourselves going beyond Venezuela to several other countries, and interviewing seven presidents in the region, telling a larger and even more compelling story, which has now become South of the Border. Leader after leader seemed to be saying the same thing. They wanted to control their own resources, strengthen regional ties, be treated as equals with the US, and become financially independent of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)."
"Good-humored, illuminating and without cant, Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone's documentary South of the Border is a rebuttal of what he views as the fulminations and lies of right-wing media at home and abroad regarding the socialist democracies of South America," writes Ray Bennett in the Hollywood Reporter. "Featuring interviews with seven national leaders who all express great affection for their neighbors to the north if not for historical US foreign policy, the film suggests a clear way forward for a continent that has largely shaken off the grip of imperialism and what Stone calls predatory capitalism as opposed to benign capitalism."
"South of the Border at first seems like a natural pairing with [Michael] Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story, and the two were presented on consecutive days at the Venice Film Festival," writes Jay Weissberg in Variety. "But despite their similarly unsubtle ways of conveying information, the two helmers are miles apart: Where Moore worships a sentimentalized Average Joe, Stone kneels before King Power. Completely seduced by left-wing strong men, Stone rarely has time for the Everyman, unless they're the human equivalents of Potemkin villages, happy folk making music and cheering on their great leaders."
"Chávez emerges as a sympathetic but still slightly sinister chap, and his childlike willingness to perform for the camera is very much at odds with his military demeanour," writes Empire's Damon Wise. "Stone doesn't probe too much, but he does, quietly and effectively, put across that Chávez isn't simply a Saddam-style despot who's putting out the welcome mat for Al-Qaeda."
For the tweeting Time Out London crew, this was "great, if wholly uncritical, fun. Biggest applause yet."
Updates, 7/9: Chavez himself has shown up on the red carpet in Venice, reports the AFP.
Verso UK recommends a few related titles from its catalogue.
Updates, 8/9: "The 70 minute movie - which was cowritten by the British-Pakistani commentator Tariq Ali, author of the 2006 study Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope, and photographed in part by docu-doyen Albert Maysles - is amateur-night as cinema, as lopsided and cheerleadery as its world view," writes Time's Richard Corliss.
Christopher Toothaker reports from Caracas for the AP, a tip from Richard Brody: "The government said Monday a leading TV channel aligned with Venezuela's opposition could lose its broadcast license for allegedly airing a viewer's text message calling for a coup and the assassination of President Hugo Chavez."
"Stone's plans to interview Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are apparently still on track," reports the Guardian's Ben Walters. Also: Video from the film and brief interviews with Stone and Chavez.