Oliver Stone talks, Khmer students listen

National Radio Text Service, 28 February 2010


Through life experience and wisdom filmmaker Oliver Stone has very strong opinions about life, war and the United States of America. He shared them with the University of Cambodia students…


When filmmaker Oliver Stone visited Cambodia University in Phnom Penh, Cambodia he pointed out his talk was primarily to address the students. The full house audience also included numerous NGO and academic types. That contingent consists largely of an assortment of Meeks and geeks who are book smart and street stupid who have invaded the gutter level society of Cambodia under the premise that they are going to help oppressed Khmers who while in doing so many are squandering US taxpayer money and donor funds. In reality their agenda is to enjoy a colonialist lifestyle while enriching themselves from the suffering of others which translates into they are in Cambodia to help themselves. As one NGO staffer said she was an opportunist.

Stone is largely known for his films regarding history including stories based on war i.e. Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July and Heaven and Earth."

Stone noted that the US, "Is a war loving country. I live in a national security state, he said." "Lies are most of what you are going to get as you get older."

He briefly explained to students the US history of countries conquering countries while the US government spreads fear among their countrymen and around the world with fear by stating, "Communism around the world are trying to destroy America and now (the theme) is terrorism."

He noted that when he was young, "I bought into that," he said. He did so by volunteering for US military service to fight for his country in the Vietnam War and insisted on being in the infantry.

Stone was born into a candy ass lifestyle of privilege the son of parents who had means. He chose leave that behind and take on the real side of life and a tough ass existence. The Vietnam War is where much of his material for his films is derived from his real life experiences. He's been shot at and hit as well as witnessing US soldiers raping Vietnamese women and children. He once spoke on a television show and noted that those who committed those sorts of crimes were committed by those who drank alcohol while those who smoked marijuana did not.

His life experiences qualify Stone as being the real deal when it comes to telling a story about what goes on in life as he's been there and done that.

Throughout Stones thesis he continually advised the students, "Don't forget to read history as much s you can. Don't get married, get a backpack and travel your ass off." He later noted that "Time and experience will make your life rich."

In Cambodia it is rare that students are taught their own history let alone about world history but Stones advice was warranted.

Stones films included his perspective on the death of former US president John F Kennedy in his film JKF. He also gave his perspective on former president Nixon who was in office when Cambodia was carpet bombed by the US military. He also raised controversy with his film W about former US president George W Bush Jr. who was somewhat portrayed as a buffoon and not well liked by his father and former US president George W Bush Sr.

Stone's films often have been criticized for promoting conspiracy theories and alleged historical inaccuracies. JFK, for instance, centers on a heroic character who comes to believe that many high-level government officials having a hand in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In 1991, he showed the film to Congress on Capitol Hill, which helped lead to passage of the Assassination Materials Disclosure Act of 1992. The Assassination Records Review Board (created by Congress to end the secrecy surrounding Kennedy's assassination) discussed the film, including Stone's observation at the end of the film, about the dangers inherent in government secrecy. Stone published an annotated version of the screenplay, in which he cites references for his claims, shortly after the film's release.

"We're (United States) are in denial not only to the Kennedy assassination but Vietnam. We have a sense of superiority which gives us a sense of arrogance."

He also noted how television news has helped promote war and the mentality of the American people by pointing out, "Television has been prostituted. In 1982 CBS television profitized the news (in televising wars)."

One student asked how he handled the criticism he often receives which was an indication that this student was somewhat familiar with the filmmakers background. The problem is those students in attendance are more likely not to have seen any of his films nor know anything about American history except the Vietnam War and the carpet bombing of their country my the US military.

Unlike many story tellers today Stone walks the walk and talks the talk of his experiences. A reporter for the Cambodia Daily in Phnom Penh wrote an excellent spot on story about Stones appearance but in the piece Stone pointed out the writers youth stating that people of his generation don't remember about US history and why it was important for people like himself to tell the stories which indicated that it was difficult for the reporter to grasp his perspective which Stone gained from experience and lived through the time of the events. Stone was talking to an educated in America intelligent and capable individual who lacks life experience thus lacks a depth of perception therefore it raises the question how far above the Cambodian students heads was Stones address?

After Stone's talk we asked five students if they understood what he was talking about. Four of the male students replied he talked about war and his films. A female student was afraid to give an opinion and sheepishly implied that she didn't speak English although she was listening to a talk that was presented ONLY in the English language.

Stone was spot on when he suggested that when the students finish their studies to travel around the world and absorb and learn about things, people and cultures. He was emphasizing the value of experience and knowledge not only from books and the real world.

Stone's advice was what many students from western countries do when they finish college education but the difference is that a major portion of these students can barely afford to pay a $600 tuition and don't have the money to travel to neighbors, Laos, Thailand or Vietnam.

With so many of these NGO'S (No Good Organizations) raking in the money for themselves perhaps one could compliment Stones advice by loaning money to top students to enable them to travel around the world for six months to a year. In doing so that travel loan would help develop future leaders of Cambodia which is currently led by poorly or uneducated individuals. In the process of their travels they would make friends that could benefit Cambodia's future and development after they return to work in their country.

Stone made some good points and gave valuable advice. The point is did the students get Stones message? If so can they do something about it and improve their lives? For those NGO types in attendance did they have the vision to see the need to fill the void between Stones advice and the student's ability to travel? Stay tuned we will follow up on this story.