Filmmaker Stone Praises Hugo Chavez

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, left, talks to U.S. film director Oliver Stone, center, during a meeting at the presidential residence in Buenos Aires, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009, as a cameraman looks on. AP Photo/Argentine Presidency

Filmmaker Oliver Stone said he sees Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as an energetic, principled champion of change in Latin American and hopes to capture the spirit of his drive to roll back U.S. influence in an upcoming documentary.

After two weeks of filming in Venezuela and elsewhere in South America, Stone said Thursday night that he probably has enough material "for two documentaries."

"The film's about the spirit of the changes in South America," Stone told The Associated Press in an interview. "It's to capture the spirit of this thing, which frankly is huge. ... There is something going on here, and it's outside the IMF, it's outside American control - that's what interests me."

Chavez takes the lead in the film, Stone said, "but the supporting cast is enormous."

Stone also interviewed Chavez's left-leaning allies in Argentina, Paraguay, Ecuador and Bolivia - all of whom have participated, he said, in the region's "liberation from the United States."

The 62-year-old filmmaker accompanied Chavez to the lot where his grandmother's house once stood, and to political rallies where he connected with crowds of admirers.

"The pure energy of the man is intoxicating," Stone said.

In their interviews, Chavez discussed world affairs, the oil business, socialism and independence hero Simon Bolivar - the inspiration of his movement.

"This is what I like about Chavez: He's a big man, he thinks big," said Stone, who described the Venezuelan president as a "world-changer."

The changes he has helped lead, Stone said, are "sweeping all over the place."

"Bolivar is back."

The Oscar-winning director said the documentary, as yet untitled, should be released in a matter of months. The film follows "W.", Stone's critical biopic about President George W. Bush.

The director said he hopes President-elect Barack Obama takes a different approach toward Latin America and "should meet with Chavez."
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