Oliver Stone's new movie, Savages, has received good, interesting reviews from such diverse sources as The NY Times, The New Yorker and Roger Ebert, among others. However, there is a general shadow of criticism hanging over many of them about the lack of what might be called a moral core. It is possible, though I haven't seen it, that the reviewers don't quite "get it." This doesn't seem typical of Stone, who has loved to provoke discussion over important issues starting with (if I remember right) JFK's assassination. But maybe he is using Savages as a catalyst for expressing his views rather than presenting them overtly in the movie itself. .
In two articles, one in BBC Mundo, the BBC service in Spanish, and one in La Jornada, Stone gives some opinions. He is no expert on Mexico, but nonetheless has some interesting if not necessarily original things to say. Bits of both pieces below. I did the translating.
Oliver Stone has experience bringing violence to the big screen: he has done it with Natural Born Killers and with Platoon.
Now the US director has chosen to tell about a different kind of violence, that of narcotrafico and the Mexican cartels. Thus was born Savages, the film that has reached the heights of media interest in the US and not only for its technique and cinemetography: it provided the point of departure for Stone, always talkative and polemical, to raise his voice in favor of the legalization of drugs [is anyone surprised?]
"The war against drugs knows no limits. It is a form of slavery to make so many young people end up in jail because of drug trafficking, it is an international problem and it isn't going to end, at least until they change the rules. To decriminalize drugs would be the first step," suggests the director to BBC Mundo in Los Angeles.
An open marijuana user since his service in Vietnam at the end of th 1960s, Stone says he has tried grass from all over. "The best that I have smoked in 40 years is produced today in California."
The southern part of this state in the US is the setting for a story "which is fiction for now," according to the film maker, about a Mexican cartel seeking to expand its business. And to succeed, it needs the support of a trio of young hippies, beach lovers and marijuana sellers....
The collision between the two business models for the distribution of illegal substances is the excuse Stone chose to reflect on a truth which he considers undeniable: the narco, and this war is a phenomenon with two different faces, one for each side of the border.
"It's curious that there has been no explosion of violence on this side, except for isolated incidents. There have been deaths and violence, yes. But it is not a wave in proportion to the activity. It is in the interest of the Mexican cartels that they keep it this way, because bad publicity inside the US would bring grave consequences," opined the director.
by Juan José Olivares in La Jornada, 10 July 2012
Why did you compare President Felipe Calderón with George W. Bush, La Jornada asked Oliver Stone, winner of three Oscars and a leading light of world cinema.
The producer/director, who as much in his fictional feature films as in his documentaries rubs salt in sociopolitical wounds, answers: "I'm not a psychologist, nor do I know President Felipe Calderón personally. Neither do I follow politics in Mexico in detail, but anyone can see that unleashing this war against the drug cartels was crazy, a disaster.
"Calderon was enamored of Bush's idea in 2001, when Bush decided to make war against Iraq, and so, Calderóm started his own. This violence was unnecessary...."
For this reason, Stone said, the results of the recent presidential elections in Mexico are a repudiation by the Mexican people of their current president....[The] highly political director ...is in Mexico to promote his recent work, Savages, the story of a hypothetical war, very bloody, between the producers of marijuana in California and a Mexican cartel who tries to take over their business....
For Stone, one way of stopping this war is "to decriminalize the use of drugs. It's what intelligent people think; this is the first step. In whatever form, the legalization of marijana would be the beginning. But one has to realize that politics will interfere, because there are economic interests. But the first thing to do is to say that the drug is not a demon, that it is not to blame; you can use it in a medical context or for pleasure, but in the end the financial aspect is the most important for all involved. This haas been a terrible thing: an economy of this type, which we would call an underground economy," said Stone, who returns to the theme of drugs for the first time since Midnight Express and Scarface, for which he wrote the scripts....
"We know that some governments have deals with the drug cartels, but not only them...we are speaking of corruption, which is here, right around the corner. Many people are involved in the business. But we can take that first step with depenalization. As a society, we are prepared, because many of us have smoked since high school, no matter where we come from. For many it is normal to smoke cannabis; a great many people do it.
"I recommend that the government legalize it, charge taxes and in this manner help its economy...," insisted the creator of Natural Born Killers, Nixon and Born on the 4th of July, among other films.
However, Stone accepts that there are hidden forces who don't want the legalization of marijuana because it isn't convenient for them. There are politicans, police, corrupt labor leaders and prison directors without ethics...who only want to make money."
One of the actors in the movie who was present at the interview, the Mexican Demián Bichir, [believes] that the real problem is rooted in "corruption and impunity....as much in the United States as in Mexico, and it appears that there is no escape. The curious thing is that those who are most affected are always the poorest people, those whom you see in the prisons."
For the actor Sandra Echeverria, "The problem of the war among cartels is the corruption in both countries."
....Echeverria argues that Oliver Stone knows "What theme to use and in what moment. He doesn't seek only to make movies that entertain, but he also seeks to create conscienc. Savages is a work which deals with strong ideas, but in the end, it makes you smile, because of the use of black humor. It is a satire, a cliche of what happens every day."