As Chairman of the Jury for the Red Sea Film Festival in Saudi Arabia, Oliver Stone takes his role very seriously. He sees the festival as an opportunity to explore cinema being made in an area of the world that he sees as misunderstood: “It’s an opportunity to really immerse yourself in Asian and African cinema that’s so wonderful. There’s a lot of big changes going on. You know, there’s a whole new world and they’re learning how to use films to tell their stories.”
Stone alluded to these changes in his remarks at the opening ceremony: “You see the changes coming, the reforms. I think people who rule too hard should come and visit this place and see for themselves.”
This was an observation that would spark controversy among critics of the kingdom’s human rights record. But Stone is unrepentant. “I meant what I said,” the director of “Platoon” and “JFK” explained. Human rights, Jesus Christ! […] America should look at itself with Julian Assange before it starts criticizing others. Because this is 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 egregious example of ruthless American intervention.
He continues: “Now they’re arguing about women in Iran? What about here? They’re doing massive reforms for women. They can’t mention it? You know, all they mention is a murder from several years ago. There are a lot of murders happening in their country.” What they’re doing to Assange is, in some ways, worse than dismembering someone. It’s slowly killing them. Right. All right. Enough said.
“The killing several years ago” is a reference to the killing by Saudi government agents of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi-American dissident, in 2018.
Back at the cinema, Stone talks about how he found the new cinema inspiring. “Sure, it gives me a reason to say I miss my career. I have to go back and make 10 more movies. I’m feeling awful. I want to make some of these different stories, but maybe I have one movie left. You know, I’m 76 now, right? So?” Yeah. The new movies have got more developed shots and in many ways better. These young kids, young people, have the benefit of seeing everything we did. So naturally, there are improvements and changes. The question is: what changes in the environment? Is there a change in the content And is the younger generation more cynical? You know, those are valid questions. Yeah, it certainly replenishes the fountain of desire. But you can’t make movies that easy anymore. The movie business is kind of awful, right? It’s never been worse.” .
Can “JFK” be made today? Not soon, Stone insists. Foundation criticism. But Terry Semel and Bob Daly, they stuck with it. They said it was a good movie. What the hell?”
Stone says he has a matrix feature but prefers not to talk about it. “I may not be able to do it. In the past few years. I’ve had setbacks. I managed to make two documentaries. Very complex. The last one was about nuclear power. Have you seen it?”
The term “nuclear” advocates the massive promotion of nuclear energy as a solution to stopping global warming. It’s a subject Stone feels passionate about. He is also working on the second volume of his memoirs, Chasing the Light. One of the strengths of the extraordinary first volume is Stone’s willingness to own up when he’s been wrong in the past, rather than just expanding on his successes. “That was the point. Failure was also a learning process. A huge amount of failure. And in filmmaking, that’s the same thing for me. People hear about successes but they don’t hear about failures.”