As Jury President of the Red Sea Film Festival in Saudi Arabia, Oliver Stone takes his role seriously. He sees the festival as an opportunity to explore cinema being made in a region of the world he sees as misunderstood: “It’s a chance to really immerse yourself in very fascinating Asian and African cinema. There are many big changes afoot. You know, there’s a whole new world and they’re learning how to use film to tell their stories.”
Stone alluded to these changes in his remarks at the opening ceremony: “You see the changes that are coming, the reforms. I think people who judge too harshly should visit this place and see for themselves.”
It was a remark that was bound to spark controversy among critics of the kingdom’s human rights record. But Stone is unrepentant. “I meant what I said,” the Platoon and JFK director clarified. “Human rights, Jesus Christ! […] America should look at themselves with Julian Assange before they start criticizing other people. Because that’s the worst case I’ve heard. […] America certainly has a long list of crimes. I don’t think they should point the finger at anyone.” Stone cites the Iraq war as a particularly egregious example of dogged American intervention.
He continues: “Now you are arguing about women in Iran? what about here They are making huge reforms for women. Can’t you mention that? You know, all they mention is a murder several years ago. There are many murders in their country. What they are doing to Assange is in some ways worse than cutting someone up. It’s slowly killing them. Right. OK. Enough said.”
The “murder several years ago” refers to the 2018 assassination of Saudi-American dissident Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi government agents.
Getting back to the film, Stone talks about how he finds the new cinema inspiring. “Certainly it gives me reason to say that I miss my career. I should come back and do 10 more films. I feel terrible. I want to do some of these different stories, but I might have one film left. You know I’m 76 now, right? So yes. The new films are more polished and shot better in many ways. These little kids, young people, have the benefit of seeing everything we’ve done. Of course there are improvements and changes. The question is: What is changing in the environment? Is there a change in content? And is the younger generation more cynical? You know, those are valid questions. So yes, it certainly renews the source of desire. But it’s not that easy to make films anymore. The movie business is kinda awful, isn’t it? It has never been in worse condition.”
Could “JFK” be made today? Stone insists, “Not even close. You had to have some courage. I mean, a lot of filmmakers will tell you that, but it’s true. It took a lot of guts to do that, and Warner Bros. took a lot of hits with it. We have received a lot of criticism of the establishment. But Terry Semel and Bob Daly, they stuck with it. They said it’s a good movie. What the hell?”
Stone says he has a feature on the horizon but prefers not to talk about it. “I might not be able to do it. In recent years. I’ve had setbacks. I was able to make two documentaries. Very complicated. The latter was on nuclear power. Did you see it?”
“Nuclear” pleads for the massive promotion of nuclear energy as a solution to curbing global warming. It’s a subject Stone is passionate about. He is also working on the second volume of his memoir, Chasing the Light. One of the strengths of the extraordinary first volume is Stone’s willingness to admit when he’s wrong in the past, rather than just dwell on his accomplishments. “That was the point. Failure was also a learning process. Incredible amount of failure. And in the film business it’s the same for me. People hear about the successes, but they don’t hear about the failures.”
https://variety.com/2022/film/global/oliver-stone-red-sea-film-festival-1235448820/ Oliver Stone speaks on human rights: ‘America should look after itself’