A war movie that is not about war

Cav Bøgelund’s debut film tells the true story of a relationship between a Danish soldier and an Afghan chief of police. Our contributors Leonie and Mina have met him at SPOT festival to talk about trust.

 By Leonie Ederli-Fickinger & Mina Christova

Can you present war without launching a political discussion? Can you portray the complexity of personal emotions in the setting of Afghanistan, without making it all about killing? The Danish director Cav Bøgelund is convinced that it is possible. At SPOT Festival he presented his animated short movie “Brothers in Arms” (Våbenbrødre), followed by a Q+A discussion at Godsbanen on Saturday afternoon. The 30-minutes short movie embeds an ancient story of trust in the martial setting of the Afghanistan war. It thus lifts an everyday human drama to a higher sensible level, catching the audience in a very exciting and at the same time sentimental way.

A story about trust: Danish soldiers follow Afghan policemen. Photo: Scene from the movie

A story about trust: Danish soldiers follow Afghan policemen. Photo: Scene from the movie

“Brothers in Arms” is inspired by true stories of Danish soldiers, and their daily dilemmas of trust and paranoia in the Afghan war. Between 2002 and 2013 Denmark has sent 9.500 soldiers to Afghanistan to work with and train the Afghan police. Just like the two main characters Ørn, a Danish commander and Fareed, the Afghan chief of police: They fight together despite their cultural differences. Until one day a member of Fareed’s troop tries to kill the Danish commander. The central question is thus, will Ørn be able to trust Fareed and his troop again?

Live and death – love and despair

The realistic sound effects and the incredibly precise drawings manage to involve the audience in the emotional quandary of the Danish commander. The animations grasp the high sensibility of the situation: “It is basically the same situation that you experience in your everyday life. But with the difference that if you do something wrong during war people can actually end up dead”, Bogelund explains. The characters’ emotional dilemma did not need real actors to be fully conveyed to the audience.


Already in filmschool Cav Bøgelund directed a movie about war: “What is so fascinating about war it’s live and death and love and despair… so all the things that make great movies”. Hence, his main interest is not the political perspective of war, nor is he interested in giving a political message. He wants to show the every day life of soldiers in war: “I see it more as a relationship movie than a war movie since it is more about whether you can learn to trust again somebody that let you down?”

 Close cooperation with Danish soldier Martin Anderson

Director Cav Bøgelund and soldier Martin Andersson have worked together very closely - it makes the movie very realistic. Photo by: Mina Christova

Director Cav Bøgelund (left) and soldier Martin Anderson (right) worked together for the entire film-making process. Photo by: Mina Christova

After the screening at Godsbanen Martin Anderson, a Danish soldier who has been stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan is present for the discussion. Initially he was supposed to be only a consultant for Bøgelund, but ended up being part of the entire film-making process and contributed to a great extend to the plot’s content. For him the “clash of two cultures” does not necessarily lead to problems – “You can easily have a close relationship to people of a different culture despite all the differences and possible misunderstandings”, he says – but only if trust you trust each other.

“Brothers in arms” is Bøgelund’s first animated movie after finishing film school in Copenhagen. Originally, he had a completely different theme in mind: “Actually first I wanted it to be a movie about two brothers driving in a car to a funeral”. Since the official premier at the Odense film festival in August 2014 he presented “Brothers in Arms” at several international film festivals. Next to come are Stuttgart, Tel Aviv, Hungary and Turkey.

A Discussion about the role of art in war 

Bøgelund hopes that his movie may help to ignite a discussion over the actual connection of art and war: “England has a great tradition of sending artists into war as sort of embedded journalists, because art can shine a light on some topics that journalism cannot or not in the same way. We don’t have that tradition in Denmark anymore. We sort of want to get that tradition back”.

 Mina and Leonie are contributors for Jutland Station from Germany. Their backgrounds in Political Science and Psychology helped them to analyse the film.

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