Published Jun 30, 2011The impetus behind controversial Danish documentary Armadillo (named after the Forward Operating Base – now called Budwan – in Afghanistan where the International Security Assistance Force soldier subjects were situated) doesn't actually pop up until the third act. After spending mission after mission being subjected to deceptive Taliban tactics, where an assault would come from a residential compound, leaving Danish soldiers to retaliate, ruining homes, crops and livestock, thus reinforcing a generalized disdain from local farmers, our documentary subjects actually manage to kill four members of the Taliban.
Up until this point, Janus Metz Pedersen's exceedingly cinematic and narrative story shows the boys complaining of minimal distractions, when not roughhousing, talking themselves up, analyzing porn films or playing violent videogames. Much like Restrepo and a handful of other similar American docs, the ignorance and aggression of youth are juxtaposed with the harsh inhumanity of war, suggesting a lack of perspective and maturity surrounding the social conventions of warfare and the supposed morality within.
Here, it makes sense, seeing as the central controversy involves a leaked story of Danish soldiers denigrating the bodies of the aforementioned Taliban soldiers, propping them up for photo opportunities and excitedly embellishing their kills. This last point is undeniable, as we do see the boys equating the slain with livestock, pulling their bodies out of a ditch and complaining of the stink, then going on to rehash the tale excitedly again and again. But what else they did, or didn't do, is left up in the air.
Beyond Pedersen's somewhat obvious juxtaposition of youthful irreverence and chicanery with unfiltered wartime action, the question becomes one of external media perspective on the morality of war from the safety of a modern, peaceful country.
What exactly do we expect to happen when we give a bunch of 20-year olds advanced weaponry and throw them into a field where they have to defend their lives against people with a very different ethical lexicon? (Kinosmith)