My Enemy's Enemy



Telluride Fim Festival

TELLURIDE, Colo. -- "The Last King of Scotland" director Kevin Macdonald returns to his documentary roots with "My Enemy's Enemy," a sobering history lesson detailing the disturbing record of complicity between notorious war criminals, specifically Klaus Barbie, and the West in the aftermath of WWII.

A pet project of Macdonald's, the France/U.K. co-production, which also screens at Toronto, makes a compelling case out of its resourcefully assembled if somewhat dryly presented archival footage and more recent interviews.

The end result could nevertheless ignite some considerable debate given The Weinstein Co. release's highly relevant perspective, and is a strong contender for the Best Documentary Oscar shortlist.

Macdonald, whose riveting 1999 film, "One Day in September," dealing with the 1972 Munich Olympics tragedy, took home a Best Documentary Oscar, finds no shortage of glaring hypocrisies when it comes to the troubling postwar relationship between the Butcher of Lyon and American counterintelligence.

Although he was held accountable for the murder of celebrated French Resistance leader Jean Moulin, as well as for the deaths of 44 Jewish children in Izieu, France, the U.S. nevertheless found his Communist-hunting tactics to be quite useful during the Cold War.

They'd eventually part company and Barbie and his family would "disappear" to Bolivia (with the assistance of the Catholic Church), where he'd lay low for a while, eventually becoming a powerful businessman and enlisting the help of some of his old Nazi brethren in a bid to build a Fourth Reich in the Andes.

With its French-language narration and confluence of German, Spanish and English, the extensively subtitled film requires a little effort on the part of the viewer, but it's a potent payoff.

Among the many informed talking heads, both freshly interviewed and in news footage, are famed French Nazi-hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, and Jacques Verges, the lawyer representing Barbie after his eventual extradition to France, who compared some of Barbie's sanctioned activities to others later taking place in Vietnam and Afghanistan.

While there's much to digest here, Macdonald serves up some undeniably potent food for thought.