United States filmmaker Oliver Stone will be filming the much expected handover and release of three hostages held by Colombia's guerrillas, an international operation involving representatives from eight countries.
Leaving the glamour of Hollywood far behind, Stone arrived in the steamy Colombian city of Villavicencio on Saturday as part of a mission organized by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to retrieve three hostages held for years by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Venezuelan government spokesperson and director of Telesur Jorge Botero said Sunday that Stone was the only person authorized to film the moment the three hostages are to be released in a yet undetermined location "Oliver Stone and his cameraman, the Argentine filmmaker Carlos Marco, have been confirmed with the group of international delegates that will receive the hostages" Botero said. Stone is making a documentary on Latinamerica and is particularly interested in first hand information from hostages, including three US contractors that the FARC accused of belonging to the CIA and have been in captivity since 2003. Stone is in Villavicencio together with the Venezuelan delegation that elaborated the plan with authorization of Colombian president Alvaro Uribe and support of delegates from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, France and Switzerland. Once the FARC reveal to the Venezuelan delegation the rendezvous point helicopters with the international delegation, including Stone and Marco, will move into Colombia's eastern jungles, an area the size of France, to collect the captives: former congresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez, Clara Rojas and her young son Emmanuel, who was fathered by one of her guerrilla captors. More than 150 journalists have camped out in Villavicencio's airport since Thursday, waiting for the rescue operation to begin. But the mission seemed unlikely to be completed Sunday as originally promised by Venezuela, as rescuers were still awaiting word from the rebels on the exact location of the release. Stone's presence in a country struggling through its fifth decade of civil conflict is a worry to his Colombian and Venezuelan guides. They prohibited him from leaving his hotel in Villavicencio, a town rocked in recent years by turf battles between rival drug traffickers and far-right death squads. Chavez personally invited Stone to join the rescue delegation after the pair, who say they are mutual admirers, met for the first time earlier this week in Caracas. Dispatching rescue helicopters from Venezuela on Friday, Chavez joked that Stone was President Bush's emissary to the operation, while Stone called Chavez "a great man." The hostage release could improve prospects for hundreds of other rebel-held captives, Stone said, including the three U.S. defense contractors Marc Gonsalvez, Keith Stansell and Thomas Howes, whose four-year confinement he said he has closely followed. "This release could be a new start, a break in the ice and the release has been well-propelled forward by Chavez," said Stone. "The important thing is that we build momentum so everyone can be released." Footage from the liberation will form part of a documentary on "North America and that includes our relations with South America and people like Chavez and Castro" said Stone without giving details. Stone is also producing a film about Pablo Escobar, history's most infamous cocaine trafficker, who was gunned down in 1993 after a bloody war against the Colombian state. The movie, which Stone hopes to film in Colombia, is based loosely on a book by Escobar's brother, Roberto.