Oliver Stone Talks Human Rights: ‘America Should Look to Itself’

As chairman of the jury for the Red Sea Film Festival in Saudi Arabia, Oliver Stone takes his role seriously. He sees the festival as an opportunity to explore the cinema being made in a region of the world he considers misunderstood: “It’s an opportunity to really immerse yourself in fascinating Asian and African cinema. There are many important changes. You know, there’s a whole new world out there 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 here, the reforms. I think people who judge too harshly should come visit this place and see for themselves.”

It was a comment sure to spark controversy among critics of the Kingdom’s human rights record. But Stone has no regrets. “I meant what I said,” the “Platoon” and “JFK” director made clear. “Human rights, Jesus Christ! […] America should look at itself with Julian Assange before it starts criticizing other people. Because this is the worst case I have ever heard. […] America certainly has a long list of crimes. I don’t think they should point the finger at anybody.” Stone cites the Iraq war as a particularly egregious example of heavy-handed American intervention.

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He continues: “Now they are arguing about women in Iran? what’s going on here They are making great reforms for women. Can’t they mention it? You know, all they mention is a murder several years ago. There are many murders happening in your country. What they are doing to Assange is, in some ways, worse than cutting someone. It is slowly killing them. right well I say no more.”

The “assassination a few years ago” is a reference to the 2018 killing by Saudi government agents of Saudi-American dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

Returning to cinema, Stone talks about how he finds the new cinema inspiring. “It certainly gives me reason to say I miss my career. I should go back and do 10 more movies. I feel horrible. I want to do some of these different stories, but I might have one movie left. Ya you know, I’m 76 now, right? So yeah. The new movies have become in many ways more sophisticated, better shot. These little, young kids have the benefit of seeing everything that we did. So, naturally, 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, definitely it renews the fountain of desire. But you can’t make movies that easily anymore. The movie business is kind of horrible, isn’t it? It’s never been worse.”

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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. he received many blows. We got a lot of criticism from the establishment. But Terry Semel and Bob Daly stuck with it. They said it’s a good movie. what the hell?”

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Stone says he has a feature lined up, but would rather not talk about it. “I may not be able to pull it off. In the last few years. I’ve had setbacks. I was able to make two documentaries. Very complicated ones. The last one was about nuclear power. Have you seen it?”

“Nuclear” advocates the massive promotion of nuclear power as a solution to stop global warming. It’s a topic that 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 been wrong in the past, rather than merely expanding on his successes. “That was the point. Failure was also a learning process. A big failure. And in the world of cinema, the same thing happens to me. People hear about the successes but not the failures.”


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