By Marc Glassman
Feature documentary by Janus Metz
If current reports are any indication, the West’s latest military adventure in Afghanistan is drawing to a rapid close. Clearly a Bush-driven punitive response to 9/11, the use of armed forces to purportedly create a democratic regime has ended in failure, with the chances of the fundamentalist Taliban opposition rising to take control of the country rapidly increasing.
In the United States, most people likely think that only American forces were fighting in Afghanistan. Naturally, in Canada, we know differently but how many even here realise that Denmark was also quite involved in Afghanistan?
Armadillo, the Cannes award-wining documentary blew that myth away in 2010. More to the point, it showed that young Danish soldiers weren’t the peace-loving lads that their country’s media had led them to believe. Director Janus Metz’s verité approach yielded dramatic dividends, showing that not every Dane agreed with the government’s statement that they were there to get “the best possible outcome for the Afghan people – bringing development assistance to areas that, without military support, may be very difficult to reach.”
Metz spent so much time with Danish forces that they become used to him, allowing their fears and growing hatred of the Taliban to become overwhelming and obvious. So when a firefight against the Taliban took place, Metz was able to film it all: the heroism of the troops and their brutality against the Taliban. This is one doc with the so-called “smoking gun”: Danish soldiers are seen and heard congratulating each other for killing helpless members of the Taliban.
When Armadillo was released commercially in Denmark last year, it provoked a media storm and a military inquiry into what was happening at the military campsite there. Now it’s being released in Canada, where the response will surely be less visceral. Still, Armadillo is a film well worth seeing: a no holds barred look at men at war and the terrible price that is paid when guns are put into the hands of boys. Whatever side of the political spectrum you may be, this is one powerful and socially engaged documentary.