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Oliver Stone on the documentary “Lula” and the trials of Donald Trump

Oliver Stone on the documentary “Lula” and the trials of Donald Trump


Oliver Stone talks about “Lula,” his new documentary about Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, as the conversation turns to American politics. The conspiracy-minded director, who has never seen a grassy knoll without seeing a second shooter on it, draws an analogy between Lula's political setbacks, involving a corruption investigation that led to a 580-day stay in prison , and those of Donald Trump. That's when the film's publicist steps in and politely attempts to bring the subject back to the documentary. But Stone waves him away and dives forward.

“The accusations on both sides of the Trump-Biden election are pretty far-fetched: Biden is corrupt and Trump is corrupt,” he says. “It’s a new form of warfare. This is called law. And that's what they're using against Trump. And I think there are interesting parallels here in America, as well as around the world, where we see this kind of behavior. [Trump’s] I've had four trials and some of these charges, whether for him or against him, they're minor.

Stone, who, it must be said, is no fan of Trump, says corruption is simply a constant throughout human history. Too much has been said about Lula – Stone does not accept claims that the Brazilian president was guilty of money laundering, stressing that he lives “modestly” – and he believes that corruption is an accusation against political figures without prior examination. the root causes of rot.

“Corruption is a way of life,” Stone says. “It goes back to the Greeks, the Romans and before that the Babylonians. There is corruption throughout history, so let's not be Pollyannas about it and think we're 'Clean America' and we We're better than anyone. This is really bullshit.

Stone goes on to suggest that the most pernicious problem in politics is money. “If you're a poor man or a middle-class man, it's very difficult to run for office in the United States unless you have money and sponsors. Money controls politics in the United States. If you go to European countries, you will find that their elections are very mandatory. British elections are very inexpensive, at least they were until recently. In France, they have electoral rules. And we need it in the United States. Let’s get money out of politics.”

But I'm not Stone. What does the high cost of presidential elections have to do with Trump's legal woes? I wonder. After all, Trump's trials involve mishandling of classified documents, as well as allegations that he obstructed attempts to recover those files; illegal efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat; and claims he falsified business records to hide his salary for the benefit of an adult film actress. Stone does not answer the question directly.

“In the broadest sense of the word, it's a manipulation of your office,” says Stone. “You're trying to control the public's perception of you. And if you are willing to pay for it. This is part of the concept of corruption, isn't it?

Frankly, I'm baffled. Is Stone suggesting that people should just ignore corruption because there were also crooked politicians in ancient Rome? After all, poverty, armed conflicts and other terrible phenomena are recurring themes in human history. Shouldn't we still try to mitigate them?

“That’s the way things happen,” Stone retorts. “There is life, there is death and there is corruption. But it's a scale. You can't point the finger at another country and say they're corrupt and their president needs to be removed or we need to attack them or end a regime. Who are we to say these things when we are deeply corrupt? Look at him [two] evenings. We should be multi-party and have public funds in politics, as is the case in Poland. Or look at the English and French models.

But while he is skeptical about pursuing legal action against Trump, Stone is a Lula convert. He believes the Brazilian leader, who served two terms from 2003 to 2011 before making a remarkable comeback that saw him defeat Jair Bolsonaro in the 2022 presidential election, is a hero. He credits it with lifting millions of people out of poverty and strengthening Brazil's social safety net.

“He had two extremely productive terms as president. It was beautiful; you couldn’t have asked for two better terms,” Stone says. He welcomes the approach adopted by Lula since his return to power. “I like his fighting spirit,” Stone offers. “I like how he made it clear that we will not have fascists in our government and that we will run a clean government.”

Stone's documentary details Lula's fall from grace and the many twists and turns that led to his conviction being overturned. By then, public opinion had swung in favor of the former president after it was revealed that Sergio Moro, the judge who oversaw a broader corruption investigation into the misappropriation of public funds, improperly collaborated with prosecutors to build a case against Lula. Moro also raised eyebrows after accepting a position in Bolsonaro's government as justice minister.

“There was serious evidence of misconduct on the part of Moro,” Stone said. “He was like a Torquemada – he became excessive in his zeal for reform.”

Moro also reportedly shared information with FBI agents and U.S. officials about his investigation into Lula. Stone sees this as further evidence of American interference in the region, something the United States has practiced for decades in countries like Chile and El Salvador.

“We have a horrible record in South America, after many years of intervention,” Stone says. “Recently it's been quiet on this front, but who knows what's really going on? »

Stone does not rule out the possibility that the U.S. government played a role in the death of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez from cancer in 2013.

“He died very mysteriously,” says Stone. “He had a very sudden cancer that came on quickly. If you know the history of deaths from rapid cancers like [Lee Harvey Oswald assassin] Jack Ruby, you have to start wondering if there's something mysterious going on? Certainly, many Venezuelans believe [there was U.S. involvement]. But we don't know it and we can't prove it. But there is still a shadow. »

As for Brazil's razor-thin 2022 presidential election, Stone makes clear the stakes couldn't have been higher. Bolsonaro and his right-wing forces threatened to resort to all manner of anti-democratic crackdowns, but rising crime has made his authoritarianism attractive to many voters. It has also opened the Amazon to more logging, mining and other industries, posing an existential threat to the environment, Stone says. Lula, on the other hand, has pledged to reduce deforestation and introduce stricter environmental controls.

“It was very close,” Stone says. “But Brazil has had a good democracy for a while, and I'm so happy that they kept it. When we were making the film, you could see it in people’s faces, their love for their democracy.”

Stone hasn't directed a feature film since 2016's “Snowden,” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the controversial whistleblower. Instead, he kept busy making documentaries about the JFK assassination and nuclear power. But he says he's almost ready to roll cameras on a new narrative film, which he is writing with journalist and “The Devil's Chessboard” author David Talbot.

“I can’t tell you what it is,” he said. “We have done several drafts and we are getting there. I hope to get there next year.

Even at 77 years old, there are still dark chapters of human history and dark conspiracies that Stone has yet to examine and unravel.




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