Cold Case Hammarskjiöld, Documenting the Undocumented Holocaust


Right out of the theater and both hyped up and disturbed by this important film. A great work of investigative journalism, Cold Case Hammarskjiöld is a must-see for everyone to see the dark history of the genocide of Africans by the American and British intelligence services.

Shown as part of the Wisconsin Film Festival, the film starts with a black-and-white animation showing a plane being blown up in the sky. Soon, we find out the plane belonged to Dag Hammarskjiöld, the second secretary general of the United Nations. Mads Brügger adopts a combination of animation, photos, and live-action to make a breathtaking thriller, an engaging whodunit to find who murdered Hammarskjiöld. The animations work as reenactment and the photos are used to provide documents. The past live-action part shows some films of Hammarskjiöld, and the present live-action part is comprised of Brügger speaking to and dictating the script to his two African women who are his secretaries for this project as well as a lot of interviews.

While the first half moves forward slowly, the second half moves so fast that it would be hard for you to just sit back and watch the film. In the middle of the film, Brügger seems defeated and unable to solve the puzzle due to all the hidden information and almost no cooperation by anyone. However, suddenly the films takes a sudden turn and new pieces of evidence get revealed one by one to disclose one of the darkest moments of humanity’s history: the plan by white supremacists, led by the American and British intelligence services, to eradicate all Africans from the face of the Earth.

Given the confidentiality of most of the documents out there and the lack of cooperation by the institutions involved, the film heavily relies on the individual witnesses as well as some of the documents leaked out by former members of South African Institute for Maritime Research (SAIMR), the institution based in South Africa and Mozambique to follow to that mission. As a result, some people would still like to call it a conspiracy theory; however, if one goes with an open mind, I believe the film does a good job of providing a convincing collection of information. Besides, much of the information, like infecting African with AIDS, is not really news.

Brügger adopts a complicated persona throughout the film. He dresses as Keith Maxwell, the founder of SAIMR, sits down on a couch and dictates to African women what to write, a simple reenactment of white supremacy. But then when he goes out to interview people who are informed about this matter, he dresses differently and adopts an investigative journalist persona. It’s a simple hint by him to remind the viewer that the exploitation of Africans by White people does not belong only to the past but it’s an ongoing matter.

The film will make people uncomfortable; uncomfortable by throwing a dark truth to their face, and that needs a big standing ovation. Hope it gets wider distribution, especially in universities and community centers, because I think many theaters will not take the risk to show it and the film needs to create discussions and not just for the viewer to see it and move on. At the same time, I do hope theaters will grant it exhibition, even if they only care about profit.


About Author

Hamidreza Nassiri

Nassiri started filmmaking when he was 19 with a short film called, White Black. Before getting his bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tehran, he made his second film, An Unforgettable Poem. After graduation, he entered the University of Tehran’s master’s program in Cinema and made several short films, including his master’s thesis film, Daylight News, which premiered in the US in May 2014. He then left Iran to continue his education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he has also taught film production, film studies, and public speaking courses. The winner of several scholarship and teaching awards, he’s currently a PhD candidate in Film Studies. He has presented several papers at prestigious conferences such as SCMS, SCSMI, and MaMI and has been invited to several events to give lectures and Q&As. He received the Public Humanities’ HEX Award in 2018. He has just finished the post-production of his new English-language short film, Immortal. Hamidreza founded the Wisconsin Iranian Film Festival in 2017 and has directed and programmed the festival for the past two years.

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