The Washington Times - January 31, 2011, 02:23AM

Hollywood filmmaker Oliver Stone defended dictator Hugo Chavez as an “honest man” with “no corruption” to a group of Pepperdine University students last week, when he addressed an audience about his pro-Chavez film “South of the Border,” reports the Malibu Times:

In the film, Stone chews coca leaves with Bolivia’s Evo Morales, chats up Fidel Castro’s younger brother Raul of Cuba and trades jibes with Cristina Kirchner on how many pairs of shoes the female Argentinean president owns.

But he also devotes most of the movie’s screen time to Chavez, a man who, Stone believes, is a simple public servant with simple dreams to recapture the more peaceful Venezuela of his childhood.

“He’s an honest man,” Stone said of Chavez on Thursday. “I sense no corruption in him.”

But Stone has been accused of filming Chavez with a sympathetic lens, offering odd adulation to the Venezuelan leader, ignoring the president’s worldwide reputation as a power-mad dictator and censorship bully. It’s a sharp contrast to what Stone’s heard of his past work-that biopics on Richard Nixon and George W. Bush were too harsh on the right wing.

[Clarification: It was Stone who made the remark: Comparing Bush to Caligula, “Somebody who’s mentally retarded becoming emperor of the Roman Empire,” ]

Trust was one overarching theme during the night’s Q&A. Stone, deflecting mild insinuations that he is a conspiracy theorist, was asked at one point why his views should be trusted in spite of the film’s judicious mockery of the conservative media and its negative coverage of South American issues.

“Some people may say [the film is] ‘softball,’” Stone replied, “but at least it’s counter to what’s out there. Any time something happens, you have to look beyond the surface. Go a little further. Think, ‘Why?’”

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President Chavez