LAT Film Critic Shouldn’t Throw at Stone

L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan (7/2/10), reviewing Oliver Stone’s documentary South of the Border, remarks in passing that “a recent piece in the New York Times pointed out numerous errors” in the film’s discussion of Latin American politics.

Turan might have noticed that the Times‘ supposed debunking, by former Latin American correspondent Larry Rohter, has itself been quite thoroughly debunked. But even more important when pointing out a filmmaker’s “numerous errors” is to avoid making glaring errors of one’s own, as Turan did when he recommended other documentaries similar to Stone’s:

If you are interested in the fascinating events around [Hugo] Chavez’s rise to power, you can see The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, directed by two Irish filmmakers, Kim Bartley and Donnacha O’Briain, who were on the scene when the events happened.

And if you care about the groundbreaking election that brought [Evo] Morales to power in Ecuador…the film to watch is Rachel Boynton’s Our Brand Is Crisis, which shows how American political consultants tried in vain to get Morales’ opponent into office.

The event Bartley and O’Briain were on hand to record, though, and the focus of their documentary, was the failed coup against Chavez in 2002–which took place more than three years after Chavez rose to power by being elected president.

And Morales is president of Bolivia, not Ecuador–and Our Brand Is Crisis doesn’t depict him defeating a rival backed by U.S. consultants in the 2005 elections, it shows those U.S. consultants advising President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada to victory in the 2002 elections.

In fictional film terms, Turan’s review is like a critic saying that The Phantom Menace is inferior to The Empire Strikes Back, in which Yoda is revealed to be Han Solo’s father.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.