Helmer takes doc to Bolivian prexy's remote home region

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With just one soundman and two cameramen lugging two HD videocameras, helmer Oliver Stone crisscrossed South America in January 2009 to interview eight of its most controversial leaders, starting with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.

The result is docu “South of the Border,” a nearly $2 million road movie that includes conversations with Chavez, Evo Morales (Bolivia); Lula da Silva (Brazil); Cristina Kirchner (Argentina); as well as her husband and former Argentina president, Nestor Kirchner; Fernando Lugo (Paraguay); Rafael Correa (Ecuador); and Raul Castro (Cuba).

Getting to the leaders meant either cramming into tiny leased planes or enduring the rigors of commercial flying and all that it entails: long waits at airports and tedious security lines. “We were like sardines (on these leased planes),” says the doc’s producer, Fernando Sulichin.

Stone and his bare-bones crew had to wear oxygen masks when in La Paz, Bolivia, to interview Morales. One cameraman, a two-pack-a-day smoker, could barely carry his camera.

Despite the challenges of the continent’s topography, Stone and his team are back, set to retrace their steps in a whirlwind tour with a series of premieres that starts May 18 in Madrid, over to Caracas on May 28 and then on to other South American destinations.

Undoubtedly, the most dramatic screening will be in Bolivia’s remote region of Cochabamba on June 1 where 3,000 indigenous people are expected to attend an outdoor screening at the massive Felix Capriles Stadium. Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous-descent president, will host the event.

Born in the highlands of Oruro, Morales’ activist roots began in Cochabamba where he was head of the coca growers union. Morales has admitted that he has only seen two to three movies in his life, all soccer-related. “We felt it was our obligation to take the film to where he was from,” says Sulichin. “We expect it to be an emotional screening.”

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