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Oliver Stone: Venezuela's Chavez spends too much time on TV, but leads with vision

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — American filmmaker Oliver Stone said Friday he deeply admires Hugo Chavez but suggested the Venezuelan president might consider talking a bit less on television.

Promoting his new documentary "South of the Border" in Caracas, Stone heaped praise on Chavez, saying he is leading a movement for "social transformation" in Latin American. The film features informal interviews by Stone with Chavez and six allied leftist presidents, from Bolivia's Evo Morales to Cuba's Raul Castro.

"I admire Hugo. I like him very much as a person. I can say one thing. ... He shouldn't be on television all the time," Stone said at a news conference. "As a director I say you don't want to be overpowering. And I think he is sometimes that way."

Chavez makes near-daily speeches that run for hours, often reminiscing, lecturing about history, announcing news and breaking into song. His Sunday program can last six hours or more.

"He's a soldier and he speaks from his heart," Stone said. "His vision is huge. ... And he will go down in history."

The Oscar-winning director hopes his documentary will help people better understand a leader who Stone said is wrongly ridiculed "as a strongman, as a buffoon, as a clown."

"This is a positive portrayal of a man who Americans do not have access to," Stone said. "He is demonized in the American and European press as a monster."

Chavez, who joined Stone for the premiere of the film at last year's Venice Film Festival, hosted a screening Friday night at a Caracas theater and called the director a good friend.

"They demonize us is North America, in Europe, in a good part of the world. And Oliver dove is, so to speak, seeking the truth," Chavez said. He called the movie "a splinter in the eagle's talon" — a reference to the United States.

Stone said President Barack Obama's administration, in spite of initially inspiring hope, hasn't done anything to improve U.S. relations with Chavez or his Latin American allies.

The director defended his decision not to interview Chavez's opponents, saying that people already hear those complaints and that the movie is not intended as a detailed examination of Chavez's record.

"It's an introduction to an entire movement in South America that the Americans do not know anything about," he said.

Stone is starting a Latin American tour to promote the film, with screenings planned in Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina. The documentary is being released in some cities in the United States and Europe this summer.