Filmmaker Kevin Macdonald, who won the Oscar for his 1999 documentary One Day in September and also directed The Last King of Scotland and is helming the upcoming Brad Pitt, Edward Norton film State of Play, has unveiled a new documentary here in Toronto, My Enemy's Enemy. The film concerns the post-war activities of Klaus Barbie, the infamous Nazi who was tagged as The Butcher of Lyon due to his penchant for going to any lengths to root out resistance fighters in occupied France during the war. Barbie's most notable crimes, documented during his trial in in the 1980s, included the arrest of 44 Jewish children in an orphanage in 1944, and their subsequent deportation to Auschwitz. When asked at his trial on July 3, 1987, if he had anything to anything to say in his defense, Barbie simply replied "I fought the Resistance, that I respect, harshly, but it was war and the war is over. Thank you." The Butcher was promptly convicted on seventeen counts of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison.

It's not Barbie's wartime crimes that Macdonald is chiefly interested in, however. This is not a documentary that seeks to unveil the hideousness of Nazism -- at this point, that subject has pretty much been exhausted -- it instead focuses on Barbie's post-war shenanigans, which were wide-ranging and spanned another forty years or so until his eventual arrest and trial in his twilight years. Proving to be a useful Nazi to the intelligence services in the immediate post-war period, he was actually protected and assisted when he attempted to relocate to South America through something called the "ratline," which funneled cooperative and useful Nazis to safe havens where they could be mined for information. A simple deal with the government was struck: Barbie would serve as a special agent against communist infiltrators in South America in exchange for protection against prosecution. Among the many services he provided along those lines, MacDonald learns, was eventually contributing to the capture of Che Guevara. Barbie's fight against Russian communists during the war simply morphed into a similar fight after the war, Macdonald argues.