Our old friend Oliver Stone is at it again. This time, as The Hollywood Reporter informs us, he is being feted and wined and dined in the People’s Republic of China, where he is the star attraction at this year’s Shanghai International Film Festival. The festival will be screening his big flop Alexander, his film Savages, as well as an episode of his Communist propaganda series The Untold History of the United States.
I’m certain the ideological guardians of the Communist regime, who still reverently pay homage to the Stalinist dictator and founder of the People’s Republic Mao Ze Dong, will be thrilled to see how the official propagandist picture of American imperialism depicted by Stone and co-writer Peter Kuznick fulfills the ideological requirements of how the regime regularly treats history. They should especially enjoy his portrait of a benign Stalin who only wanted secure borders and fought for peace.
As the report informs readers, Stone “brought thunderous applause to a crowd of more than 500 festivalgoers…when he praised whistleblower Edward Snowden as a ‘hero.’” So while Dick Cheney rightfully condemns Snowden as a traitor, a word that Snowden himself says is a badge of honor when bestowed on him by the former vice president, Oliver Stone gets the backing and support of an audience in statist China. The People’s Republic’s government controls propaganda and censors free news reports, has its own repressive gulag system of prison camps, and is anything but a free society. It has not dawned on the filmmaker that attacking the United States as not free in a land in which dissenters are arrested and persecuted on a regular basis shows anything but an understanding of what freedom and liberty are.
Stone did just as his hosts required. The article by reporter Richard Trombley tells us the following:
In response to a passionately worded indictment from an audience member accusing the U.S. National Security Agency of “eavesdropping on the world,” the celebrated — and provocative — director said, simply: “Snowden is a hero,” before launching into a brief discussion of the revelations about the U.S. spy programs and their aftermath….Stone went on to praise the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and whistleblower Bradley Manning. He condemned President Barack Obama’s administration for prosecuting six whistleblower cases despite campaign promises of a more progressive administration.
Stone joined prolific Hong Kong director Johnnie To in a master class entitled “How Does Film Have Its Influence on Real Life?” held at the newly opened Shanghai Film Museum with moderator and state-owned newspaper China Daily film critic Raymond Zhou.
“Mr. Stone, you sound like one of China’s angry young men,” chided Zhou.
Despite repeated attempts from the moderator to redirect the discussion and Zhou’s requests not to discuss political matters, Stone castigated the Bush administration, the Iraq war, the Kuwait Invasion and American imperialism.
Stone defended movies that criticize authority, from war movies to crime movies. But he did caution that violence must be used responsibly. He also pointed to the media’s influence on the culture of violence, from Newtown and Columbine to the Bush-era wars.
Cherish the irony. The Chinese hosts wanted the event to appear non-political, in order to highlight their film colony’s entrance into the world arena. But evidently they did not know Oliver Stone well enough. As he noted, “Movies that glorify war give permission to the leaders to make war,” although his criticism was reserved only for the United States, and not to any of the many times that the Communist nations he supports have used their own media to do precisely that which he claims to find objectionable.
Next, Stone told the audience that his Showtime documentary series was the “toughest project” he has undertaken, since it is difficult to unravel the myths about the United States. Given, as I have shown in many different venues, that his entire series is one big myth — or, more accurately, one big lie – it most likely is a task that proved very difficult for him to accomplish.
Moreover, Stone, who has made his share of very violent films, was ironically rebuked by Hong Kong director Johnnie To in a panel on “How Does Film Have its Influence on Real Life?” The article tells us that To’s own films contain “a liberal dose of violence.” So director To told Stone that “movies are not textbooks or teaching tools,” and that everyone has their “own opinions.” I have not seen any of To’s movies, but coming from fairly liberal Hong Kong, To probably is not too favorable to the old doctrine of “socialist realism” or didactic films now favored by Stone. Hence, he argued with Stone, “movie violence will not remove violence in the real world.”
But perhaps not all is lost. Stone was sorry, he told the audience, that his film Wall Street has been misunderstood, and that the character Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, has now become a hero in America because he believed that “greed is good.” Now, Stone bemoaned, those values “have become the norm.” Most Americans would strongly disagree. The American people, as they have shown every time a disaster strikes, have responded forcefully with aid, money, and their own bodies to help people in times of crisis. The norm for average Americans, of whom Oliver Stone knows very few, is the opposite of the kind of greed the people he hangs out with regularly display. But the corrupt government of China, where greed, rapacious behavior, and horrors galore are displayed by the rich apparatchiks, is more than happy to have Stone deflect its own citizen’s attention from the reality of life in China and instead have them angry at the United States.
One thing is certain. Oliver Stone will receive his Outstanding Artistic Achievement award from Communist China, and will still be able to hold a title more appropriate — the Number One Useful Idiot living in the United States.