Mi mejor enemigo (My Best Enemy)  (2005) 

 

 

 

Director:    Alex Bowen. 

Cast:     Nicols Saavedra (Soldado Rodrigo Rojas), Erto Pantoja (Sgt. Osvaldo Ferrer), Miguel Dedovich (Teniente Enrique Ocampo), Jorge Romn (Sgt. Carlo Alberti), Felipe Braun (Teniente Riquelme), Fernanda Urrejola (Gloria), Pablo Valledor (Soldado Guillermo Mancilla), Victor Montero (Soldado Javier Orozco), Juan Pablo Miranda (Soldado Jorge Salazar), Andrs Olea (Soldado Jos Almonacid), Luciano Morales (Suboficial Soto), Emiliano Ramos (Martinez), Diego Quiroz (Figueroa), Martn Lavini (Cabello), Ezequiel Abeijn (Inzua).

the 1978 Beagle Conflict between Argentina and Chile over three islands south of Tierra del Fuego

 

Spoiler Warning:     below is a complete summary of the entire movie. 

1978. 

Rojas acts as the narrator.  He says 1978 was a hard year.  "In my neighborhood there was mistrust, fear.  Some friends didn't talk to each other.  Others were arrested and vanished."   Rojas is a conscript.  The only thing he really wants is the lovely waitress Gloria in Santiago.  He takes her picture and arranges to see her again the next day.  "But this night we were sent to Punta Arenas.  Things were not good in the south."  The concern is about the Argentines attacking across the Chilean border. 

Sgt. Ferrer arrives to shape up Rojas's group.  The lieutenant gives Ferrer a mission to accomplish.  He is to take five men with him to defend the islands of Pecton, Nueva and Lenox.  Among the five soldiers chose are:   Rojas from Santiago; Mancilla from Talca;  Salazar from Talcahuano, Almonacid from Puqueldon; and Orozco, the only one from the regular army and not a conscript.   The guys are all northerners. 

The first duty of the patrol is to make an Advanced Combat Outpost in the pampas.  The patrol is driven out into the pampas and dropped off.  They are given 20 bullets each and are expected to kill five Argentine soldiers each.  The men arrive at an abandoned ranch where they stay overnight.  While on guard duty, Salazar gets spooked by a dog and accidentally fires off his weapon.  The other men come running expecting a fire fight. 

Back at camp the Foreign Affairs Minister arrives.  The men are placed on yellow alert. 

Almonacid is in charge of the compass, a very valuable and necessary instrument in the vast grasslands of the pampas where there are few landmarks.  Unfortunately for the group, Almonacid places the compass on the floor near the map of the area and one of the soldiers accidentally steps on it and breaks it.  The sergeant is furious with Almonacid and balls him out, causing the young man to cry.  Because they have no compass, the men cannot find their designated spot.  Sgt. Ferrer has to call the lieutenant and tell him that they are lost.  They are given the order to withdraw to the ranch.  The dog that scared Salazar shows up at the soldiers' night encampment. 

The next day the men march for six hours in search of the ranch, but they cannot find it.  The lieutenant receives news at headquarters that an enemy force lies ahead.  The six soldiers cannot contact headquarters because there is a problem with the radio.  While waiting around, the men think they see Argentine soldiers heading their way.  They prepare for a fight.   But it not soldiers they see, but the animals known as Guanacos. 

The men do not know if they are even still on Chilean soil.  They may have crossed the border.  The order is to stay in place, so they dig a long trench.  They start to set up traps to catch rabbits.  The lieutenant tells Lt. Lopez to pick a squad to go and find the lost patrol. 

Meanwhile, an Argentine patrol finds one of the rabbit traps.  Soon the Argentines have the Chilean patrol under observation.  The dog shows up again and the Chileans decide to keep him as an early warning system.  They name him "Compass".  Mancilla has an accident and suffers a very severe cut on his right leg.  This puts him out of action for a long period.. 

After a while, the Chileans become aware that the Argentine soldiers are in the area.  A Chilean soldier shouts to the others:  "Argentines!!!"  The Argentines have also dug trenches, not far from the Chilean trenches.  Both sides take their defensive positions.  Sgt. Ferrer gets the order to hold fast  --  no advance, no retreat.  Compass runs toward the Argentine trenches.  Rojas, bravely or foolishly, goes out into the no man's land area and picks up his dog.  The enemy soldiers do not shoot, so Rojas takes Compass back to the Chilean trenches. 

One of the Chilean soldiers, Salazar, sneaks over to the Argentine trenches at night.  He grabs a lot of equipment from the sleeping soldiers, including some sun glasses.  Sgt. Ferrer slaps him for this action.  Compass goes over to the Argentine side again.  The Argentines decide to use the dog to exchange goods between the two sides.  They send the dog back with Argentine tea.  In exchange, they want Chilean cigarettes.  The Chileans send the dog back with the cigarettes. 

Mancilla's wound is worsening and the Chileans have used up all their penicillin on him.  Rojas tells the men that he is going to walk over to the Argentines to ask them for some penicillin.  The full-timer Orozco opposes the idea.  He calls it treason during war time.  But war has not yet been officially declared.  Rojas is determined and the sergeant gives his o.k.  Rojas starts walking toward the Argentines.  The Argentine sergeant, Ocampo, comes out to talk with Rojas.  Rojas explains the situation.  Mancilla is brought out in a blanket and the two groups clean the wound and give the wounded man some penicillin.  The two sergeants talk about the situation.  They both admit that they don't know where they are: in Chile or in Argentina.  So they decide to establish their own border using fire to mark it.  The fire gets out of hand and they all have to stomp it out. 

For being such good sports, the Chileans give the Argentines a girly magazine.  The men construct a primitive soccer ball and a match between the two sides is arranged.  The game is suddenly stopped when two jet airplanes fly directly over their heads.  The men dive into their trenches.  The Chileans discover that their radio battery no longer provides the necessary power to run the radio.  There are no more contacts with headquarters to learn what is happening. 

A sheep herder drives his sheep between the two sides.  He gives a small sheep to the men.  Both sides fight over the sheep.  They cannot come to an agreement to share the meat.  Both sides place guards around the sheep.  They finally agree to share and a feast is prepared.  The men enjoy the meat. 

The lieutenant arranges for artillery fire in three sectors.  The two sides debate the virtues of the tango compared to the Chilean cueca.  The forces on both sides start to move toward each other.  An order is given to Sgt. Ocampo to attack at 2200 hours (10 p.m.).  Ocampo talks with Sgt. Ferrer.  He tells him that an entire army is going to bear down upon the Chileans.  He advises Ferrer to move one mile to the south to avoid certain death.  Sg. Ferrer says his men will stay where they are and fight.  The sergeants declare the sheep feast over.  The men go back to their respective trenches.

The two sides prepare themselves for battle and probably certain death.  The Chileans write their last letters and Rojas gives them to Sgt. Ocampo to mail after the conflict.  The Chileans prepare for an Argentine onslaught.  At the last minute, Sgt. Ocampo receives a radio call telling him to stand down.  There will be no war today.  Ocampo, thinking the Chileans have received the same information via radio, walks toward the Chilean trenches to return the Chilean letters.  Orozco panics and shoots the sergeant.  A fire fight breaks out.  Almonacid is killed before the two sides straighten out the mistake. 

The Chilean patrol returns to headquarters with the dead Almonacid.  The soldiers at headquarters take off their hats as the truck carrying Almonacid's corpse drives by them. 

Three of the patrol soldiers have a drink with Rojas back in Santiago.  Rojas sees Gloria and kisses her.  She slaps him across the face.  The men ask for four beers.  They all talk about how no one has thanked them for what they did for their country.  No one seems to appreciate their sacrifices.

 

 Good anti-war film.  Except for a couple of lifers, neither the Argentine or Chilean soldiers wanted to fight with each other.  They were able to cooperate on a lot of different problems and work them out.  At many times during the film, the actions of the two sides seem comic, almost farcical, thus making fun of the whole myth of war.  Rojas is probably the most anti-war soldier in the two groups of soldiers.  He does not see much sense in dying for his country.  He wants to live, not sacrifice his life for his country.  He will fight, if cornered, but otherwise he will do everything possible to work out a compromise between the two sides to avoid bloodshed.  Rojas proves his bravery on a number of occasions, but only in pursuit of humanitarian goals, not military ones. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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