Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez received a movie star welcome at the Venice Film Festival, where he walked the red carpet with director Oliver Stone for the premiere of the documentary "South of the Border."
Chavez, surrounded by bodyguards, strolled with Stone on the Lido red carpet and signed autographs like a movie star ahead of the premiere at the Venice film festival.
"What's happening in Latin America is like a Renaissance," the Venezuelan leader told reporters. Chavez landed in Venice after visiting Iran and Turkmenistan.
Stone spent extensive time with Chavez for the 75-minute documentary, which is premiering at the Venice Film Festival on Monday, and also interviewed the leaders of Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba and Paraguay, whom Stone said "are on the same page" as Chavez.
"He's a guy you should meet and get to know. ... He's the star of the movie," Stone said in an interview before the premiere.
Stone said he wanted to illustrate changes that put in power in many South American countries' leaders who represent the majority of their populations, a movement exemplified by Chavez. He cited Bolivian President Evo Morales, the first Indian to be elected president, and Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a well-known trade unionist.
Last Mod: 09 Eylül 2009, 11:04
"If you look now, there are seven presidents, eight countries with Chile, that are really moving away from the Washington consensus control," Stone said. "But in America, they don't get that story."
"South of the Border" is showing out of competition at the Venice Film Festival, which ends Saturday with the awarding of the Golden Lion.
Through a series of interviews interlaced with footage from US media and official statements, Stone is out to show that Chavez is not "public enemy number one" as so often depicted on US media outlets such as Fox News.
He tells the story of Venezuela's "peaceful revolution" since Chavez came to power in 1998, and how Venezuela's transformation has had knock-on effects in the rest of the continent.
Stone's documentary portrayed him as a hero of the people who refuses to be bullied.