Friday, June 20, 2014

My Best Enemy? Chilean Cinema Captures An Almost Conflict in Patagonia

In the Southern Hemisphere it’s winter, a time when relatively few travelers choose to take a Patagonia vacation, but there are various ways to prepare for southernmost South America before the trip. Both Argentina and Chile (to a lesser extent) have flourishing film industries that have produced features that provide entertaining and informative background about the region.
In 1978, the two countries nearly went to war over three small islands in the Beagle Channel before a papal intervention soothed matters. Much of the mainland border between the two nations, though, is a “Big Sky Country” that consists of a windswept steppe where guanacos and rheas bound back and forth without worrying about intangible lines on the landscape.
Set during this near-war, Chilean director Alex Bowen's Mi Mejor Enemigo ("My Best Enemy," 2005) is the tragicomic tale of Argentine and Chilean army patrols who encounter each other without knowing what side of the border they're on. Though they’re a bit startled, a minor medical emergency helps them overcome any potential antagonism, and they end up playing a friendly soccer game.

Not only that, the Argentines even manage to instruct their Chilean counterparts in how to dance tango – men used to dance it together in Buenos Aires brothels - and the Chileans respond by teaching the Argentines the cueca, their own country’s typical folkloric dance. The officers don’t take kindly to this fraternization but, given the uncertainty and the absence of orders from above, there’s not much they can do about it.

In the end, a papal mediation keeps the two countries from going to war, but a misunderstanding leads to a brief firefight with fatal results. Fortunately, today’s Patagonian landscape bears almost no trace of a conflict the two countries managed to avert.

As linked at top, Mi Mejor Enemigo is available on Youtube in its entirety, but English-speakers will have to enable the imperfect automatic translation for subtitles.

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