In 1986-7, spending a year-plus in the Falkland Islands on a Fulbright-Hays fellowship, my wife and I had a chance to visit the island of South Georgia on the RFA Sir Bedivere, a British supply ship that reprovisioned the British Antarctic Survey post there. The nine-day trip would have cost us about US$400 each, which sounds like a bargain now, but it would have meant four days in rough seas in each direction and only one day there, with no guarantee of going ashore – that depended on conditions on arrival.
On a student budget, it seemed a lot of money at the time, but today we regret not having done it. That’s especially so when I think of the way British explorer Ernest Shackleton traveled to South Georgia, rowing a small covered boat from Antarctica’s Elephant Island (pictured above in a NOAA photograph), in the dead of winter in 1914. That’s a true-life adventure that, as its centennial approaches, is due to appear on the big screen as Ice, under the auspices of Hollywood producer Bob Chartoff.
After his expedition vessel Endurance sank in pack ice, Shackleton and several crew members crossed several hundred miles of the stormy South Atlantic in the small open boat James Caird (the photograph above is by expedition photographer Frank Hurley), arriving at South Georgia two weeks later. Even then, the adventure was not over, as they had to traverse the mountainous, glacier-covered island to reach a Norwegian whaling station of the north side. Shackleton’s adventure has already been the subject of a documentary, director George Butler’s The Endurance, which is well worth seeing, but I also look forward to the fictional version. I would be curious to learn how much of the film might be shot on location.
Pictured above, the Sir Bedivere, for what it’s worth, no longer serves the South Georgia route. In 2009, the Royal Navy sold it to Brazil.
Oscar Update: Best Foreign Film?
In other cinematic news, Argentina and Chile have chosen their candidates for the next Academy Awards. Argentina’s submission will be director Benjamín Ávila’s Infancia Clandestina (Clandestine Childhood), the tale of a boy raised by Montoneros guerrilla parents during the “Dirty War” of 1976-83. While fictional, it is partly autobiographical, as Ávila’s mother herself was a victim of Argentina’s military dictatorship.
The Chilean entry is director Pablo Larraín’s No, a tale of the referendum on Augusto Pinochet’s continuation as the country’s de facto president in 1988, which the general famously lost and, reluctantly, finally acknowledged to pave the way for a return to democracy the following year. No (the image above is the campaign flag) will have at least one big name: Mexican actor Gael García Bernal, who played the role of Argentine revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Walter Salles’ award-winning The Motorcycle Diaries, will have to adopt a Chilean accent to play the role of René Saavedra, an exiled PR man who returns to help lead the anti-Pinochet campaign. Recently, No won an award at Cannes.
In peripherally related news, our nephew José Massolo informs us that his modest apartment in Buenos Aires’s downtown Congreso neighborhood (where we ourselves lived for occasional periods before acquiring our own apartment in Palermo) will be used as a location for director Natalia Smirnoff’s upcoming film El Cerrajero (The Locksmith). Clearing out for a weekend, José should earn enough from the rental to buy a new MacBook that will help him in his graphic design studies.
Tango by the River
As announced recently, there’s been a postponement of my digital slide lecture on Buenos Aires at Tango by the River in Sacramento, which will now take place Friday, October 26th, at 6 p.m.
Limited to a maximum of 50 people, the event will also include tango performances; admission costs $10 at the door, or $8 in advance. I have spoken here several times before, and we always sell out, so plan in advance. Signed copies of my Moon Handbooks on Argentina, Buenos Aires, Chile and Patagonia will be available at discount prices.