Sunday, August 17, 2008

Steppe-ing Across Patagonian Borders

A couple months ago, I wrote a post about the near-war between Argentina and Chile in 1978. Last week, in a sort of followup, I finally watched the DVD of Chilean director Alex Bowen's film Mi Mejor Enemigo (My Best Enemy), based on a real incident in which Argentine and Chilean patrols come face to face on the featureless Patagonian steppe, unsure of which side of the border they're on.

In pointing out such absurdities, the film is a comedy of sorts - in one scene, the Chileans think they've spotted the enemy, only to peer through the binoculars at a troop of guanacos like the one pictured here. When the two groups finally do encounter each other, it's still not a shooting war and, when one Chilean soldier is injured in an accident, the Argentine commander provides him penicillin to treat the infection. With that starting point, they reach a tenuous but respectful modus vivendi, sharing a barbecued lamb, the Argentines showcasing their tango steps and the Chileans dancing cueca.

In fact, the film's very title is playful - a pun on mi mejor amigo (my best friend). That said, even though a last-minute papal settlement avoids war, the movie is not without tragedy. Still, it's a measure of how much matters have improved in the last three decades that, as the final credits roll, we see that both countries' armies collaborated on the film.

2 comments:

  1. I watched that film. My husband is Chilean and it was recommended to us by Chile's ambassador in Guatemala, whom we met in Guatemala. Apparently he showed the film in Guatemala during a seminar about the problems the debate between Guatemalans and Belizeans regarding their territories.

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  2. There are certain parallels between Guatemala and Belize, but the big difference is that, while the Chilean and Argentine armies would be pretty evenly matched, the Guatemalans could roll over the Belize Defence Force. Fortunately, it's not come to that yet.

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