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Preview: How Will Oliver Stone Tell "The Untold History of the United States"?

ReelPolitik By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik August 24, 2011 at 5:50AM

Preview: How Will Oliver Stone Tell "The Untold History of the United States"?
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Get ready for controversy -- of "JFK" proportions.

Oliver Stone's "The Untold History of the United States" will get its first public presentation at the New York Film Festival, it was announced today. But what sort of history will Stone, one of America's most controversial political filmmakers, tell in his epic-length antidote to Ken Burns' PBS portraits?

Little specifically is known about the 10-part documentary series made and to be broadcast by Showtime next year.

But in interviews over the last several months, Stone has given clues as to the kind of polemical project -- which he's called "the most important thing I've ever done" -- that he will unveil.

The New York Film Festival will present the series' first three chapters, at 240 minutes, which focus on the events leading up to America's entrance into World War II, the war itself, and "the unjustly forgotten figure of former U.S. Vice President Henry Wallace," according to a press release, which claims, "Stone puts nothing less than the entire 20th century under a microscope, with results that are sobering, surprising and sure to be controversial."

As a preview of what we else we might expect, he told a San Francisco International Film Festival audience, according to the San Francisco Examiner, “It’s really important to study what happened in that last year of [JFK's] administration towards ... a new foreign policy. And after those two debacles in Cuba, [JFK] really had tremendous mistrust of the military system. But he was smart enough to know that he had to get re-elected. He was hostile, extremely hostile to the generals. He saw Vietnam coming . . . he was making strong moves to the Soviet Union. And he was making moves in Cuba, as well as all over the world.... [JFK's] assassination is a tremendous setback to the cause of peace.”

The director quickly added, “and thank God for (Mikhail) Gorbachev 20 years later, because Gorbachev was probably a hero, he was an American hero who we don’t even recognize.”

According to a story in The Malaysian Insider, published in May, Stone also told a packed auditorium about the series, saying that he'd also be re-examining the Japanese in WWII and Russian leader Joseph Stalin more sympathetically than ever before.

“The Japanese were recognized, often hailed as liberators in Asia of these European colonies," Stone said, according to the paper. "President Roosevelt himself said that the Japanese ascendancy would not even have been possible had it not been for European colonialism.

“And people forget that. They look back and they see the horrible Japanese but they never ask how this situation came about.”

Stone also said he'd dig up historical “facts” to redress the balance which traditionally paints the West as good and Russian leaders like Stalin as bad.

If Stone's recent sympathetic doc portraits of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez haven't made him reviled enough by those on the Right, this sounds like a political doozey.

This article is related to: Political Docs