Film, theater play unites former war enemies
FAIRFIELD — In 1982, Marcelo Vallejo was a soldier in the Argentine army, and Lou Armour a marine in the British navy.
During the Falklands War, or “guerra de las Malvinas,” a conflict that took place from April to June of 1982 in the islands near the southwest coast of the South American continent, Vallejo fired heavy mortar shells at Armour’s contingent.
Vallejo and Armour wouldn’t know about that until more than 30 years later.
Now, both veterans share the stage and the screen in “Campo Minado” (“Minefield”) and “Theatre of War,” a project that explores the experience of both Argentine and English veterans during the conflict.
Ever since they got together under the leadership of Argentine director Lola Arias in February 2016, the group and cast have traveled all over the world with performances across Europe, South America and currently the United States with stops at Princeton, Fairfield and Minneapolis.
“I never imagined this, not even in my dreams, it’s something truly incredible,” said 56-year-old Vallejo.
For more information about the upcoming play “Campo Minado” scheduled for Jan. 26, visit: quickcenter.fairfield.edu/18-19-season/theatre/campo-minado-minefield.html
For more information about the upcoming film screening “Theater of War” scheduled for Jan. 23, visit: fairfieldtheatre.org/shows/stageone/theatre-war
It’s a journey that both the South Americans and European veterans alike have said has altered their perspectives while bringing them together.
“I remember the first time we met (the Argentines),” Armour, 60, said. “We were looking over the map of the Falklands and I’m looking at it with Vallejo, and it was quite interesting looking at the map and seeing where we were.”
The experience has not only united the former enemies of war together, but other veterans who have seen the performance throughout the more than 30 cities in which they have acted.
“There are Argentine veterans who have come to the show and tell me, ‘I used to hate you guys,’ and after they see the show, they shake our hands and say thank you,” Armour said. “I think with conventional forces, veterans tend to respect each other after the wars.”
For Arias, the director of both the film “Theater of War” and “Campo Minado,” the plan to get English and Argentine veterans together was almost unthinkable and something that faced opposition from various institutions, both in Argentina and abroad.
“It was very complicated in different aspects from convincing international co-productions, and facing rejection about the project as if it were a denunciation of the Falklands’ sovereignty,” Arias said. “It was also difficult to convince the veterans. For many of the Argentine veterans, the very thought of sharing the stage with the English was unthinkable.”
Vallejo was one of those people, until some of the other cast members pushed him to go through with it.
“At the beginning, I told (Arias) no. I didn’t want to have a relationship with the English, but (Arias) is very insistent and well ... after a while, other members of the play convinced me,” Vallejo said.
Ruben Otero, a former Argentine navy man who survived the sinking of the Argentine vessel the Belgrano during the conflict, never imagined he would be traveling around the world, let alone with the very people who once considered him the enemy.
“These things like Manhattan and other places ... these are places I’ve only seen on television,” Otero said. “During the war, I never actually saw English soldiers face to face, and that made the initial encounter with (the other actors) much easier. We accepted the situation and began to work on something that would be best for us and the relations between our countries.”
Lori Jones, director of programming and audience development at the Quick Center for the Arts at Fairfield University, said the movie and the show provide a unique and intimate perspective.
“Our programing is based in providing the highest caliber of artistic experience to our community,” Jones wrote via email. “In this case, the Veterans involved in the performance fought on either side of the war, and yet, they come together to create this powerful piece of theatre that is about very human experiences and learning to live after life-changing experiences, and we felt there was a lot to gain from hearing those stories.”
A film screening of “Theatre of War” will play at the Fairfield Theatre Company on Jan. 23 at 7 p.m., followed by a seminar at the Quick Center Jan. 24 at 5 p.m. Lastly, “Campo Minado” will be performed at the Kelley Theatre on Jan. 26 at 8 p.m.
Arias emphasized that the past two-and-a-half years have been a bonding experience for the entire group.
“The cast and the artistic team have developed a very strong relationship,” Arias said. “For the veterans even more so, they do many things together. The project really united them in an interesting way.”