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 that he feels is misunderstood: “It’s an opportunity to really dive into the very exciting cinema of Asia and Africa. There are a lot of big changes going on. You know, it’s a whole new world and they’re learning to use film to tell their stories.
Stone referred 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 visit this place and see for themselves.
It was a remark that was sure to cause controversy among critics of the Kingdom’s human rights record. But Stone is unrepentant. “I mean what I say,” the Platoon and JFK director made clear. “Human rights, Jesus Christ! […] America should take a look at themselves with Julian Assange before they start criticizing other people. Because that’s the worst case I’ve ever heard. […] America certainly has a long list of crimes. I don’t think they should point fingers at anyone. Stone cites the Iraq war as a particularly vivid example of heavy-handed American intervention.
He continues: “Now they are arguing about women in Iran? how is it here They are making huge reforms for women. They can’t mention it? You know, they only mention the murder years ago. There is a lot of killing going on in their country. What they are doing to Assange is in some ways worse than cutting someone. It kills them slowly. To the right. OK good. Enough said.”
“Assassination several years ago” is a reference to the 2018 killing of Saudi-American dissident Jamal Khashoggi by agents of the Saudi government.
Back to filming, Stone talks about how he finds the new cinema inspiring. “Of course, it gives me a reason to say that I miss my career. I should go back and do 10 more movies. I feel terrible. I want to do some of these different stories, but I have maybe one movie left. You know, I have 76, right? So yes. The new movies have become more refined and better shot in many ways. These young kids, young people can see everything that we did. So of course there are improvements and changes. The question is: What’s changing in the environment? Is it happening? change in content? And is the new generation more cynical? You know, those are valid questions. So, yes, it’s definitely rekindling the source of desire. But you can’t make movies that easily anymore. The movie business is horrible, isn’t it? It’s never been worse off.”
Could “JFK” be made today? Stone insists, “Not even close. You had to have courage. I think a lot of filmmakers will tell you that, but it’s true. You needed a lot of effort to do that, and Warner Bros. We received a lot of criticism about the facilities. But Terry Semmel and Bob Daly stuck with it. They said it was a good movie. What the heck?”
Stone says he has a trait, but he’d rather not talk about it. “I might not be able to pull it off. In recent years. I’ve had some bad luck. I was able to make two documentaries. Very difficult. This last one was about nuclear power. Have you seen it?”
“Nuclear” argues for the massive promotion of nuclear power as a solution to halting global warming. It’s a topic Stone is passionate about. He is also working on the second volume of his memoir Chasing the Light. One of the strengths of the unusual first volume is Stone’s willingness to admit that he has made mistakes in the past, rather than expounding only on his successes. “That was the point. Failure was also a learning process. A huge amount of failure. And it’s the same for me in the film business. People hear about success, but they don’t hear about failure.