Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bond v. Reality in the Atacama

Two nights ago, I went to see the new James Bond flick, Quantum of Solace, and in fact it's not a very good movie. It's excessively violent, the plot is full of holes, and Daniel Craig is no Sean Connery or even Pierce Brosnan - the ironic humor of their efforts is almost totally absent. That's not to say it isnt' worth seeing - though I might recommend waiting until it appears on DVD - but that's because of my own interest in the film's portrayal of Chile, where substantial parts of it were shot.

When director Marc Forster was filming in and around Antofagasta earlier this year, he drew protests from some sectors of Chilean society because Chile was used as a stand-in for Bolivia (in the late 19th century, in fact, this was part of Bolivia until Chile's victory in the War of the Pacific). This is still a touchy topic, especially among strident Bolivian and Chilean nationalists.

As I wrote in the earlier post referenced above, the main Chilean locations were the Cerro Paranal observatory, the coastal ghost town of Cobija, and the aging rail junction of Baquedano (pictured here), along the Pan-American Highway. The mayor of Baquedano was in fact arrested when he drove onto the set to protest the fact that Baquedano was being used to represent Bolivia (anybody mistaking a Bond film for reality perhaps should be in custody, or even in a straitjacket). I have heard of no such protests in Panama, which the film used as a stand-in for Haiti.

What I found more interesting was that the film's villain, Dominic Greene (portrayed by French actor Mathieu Amalric), is a gangster posing as an environmental philanthropist. Most Chileans, I'm sure, will take the movie in stride as fiction. A certain sector, though, is likely to see it as a confirmation of their suspicions of their own foreign environmental philanthropist, Doug Tompkins, who has created a private national park, open to the public, in northern Chilean Patagonia. That would be unfortunate, but unsurprising.

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