Filmmaker Janus Metz's documentary, Armadillo, is about as raw as they come.
Metz and cameraman Lars Skree spent six months following a group of Danish soldiers working at an army base (Armadillo) in the Afghan province of Helmland.
The soldiers patrol an area where Taliban forces are often less than a kilometer away. Footage includes bombings, shootouts, injuries, and in some cases, deaths. But perhaps even more riveting than the war scenes is the footage of soldiers trying to have fun in their off time, and trying to come to grips with everything that's happening around them.
Armadillo will be showing at the FilmBar beginning this week, and suffice to say, it's not your typical indie flick or action movie.
This is the grit of real life in wartime, and Metz and Skree were there every step of filming -- even during an intense shootout between Danish soldiers and the Taliban that wounded two Danes and killed five members of the Taliban. The camera's so close you can see dust and shrapnel flying everywhere through the sound of rapid-machine gun fire and soldiers shouting at each other.
That shootout scene caused controversy in Denmark regarding the behavior of Danish soldiers. What the camera captures of the day is the Danes' attempt to ambush the Taliban. The two opposing forces end up right next to each other in a wooded area, separated only by a ditch. A Danish soldier lobs a grenade into the ditch, and then two soldiers commence firing dozens and dozens of rounds into the ditch and the bodies of Taliban fighters. Reports that they celebrated and laughed during the debriefing helped sparked the controversy.
Indeed, the documentary does show the Danish soldiers smiling and laughing while they recount the ambush, but it's impossible for anyone who wasn't there to understand their elation. They're constantly being shot at, their fellow soldiers are being wounded and killed, and at the end of the day, they're still alive with all limbs intact. That's got to be some cause for elation, even if the men must wrestle with what they had to do to survive.
And that's where the heart of Armadillo really lies -- in the stories of the soldiers, and how the war is changing them. A mortar spotter laments the accidental killing of a little girl, two soldiers debate whether or not they should feel bad for killing enemy forces, and the youngest and newest member of the group goes from being gung-ho about "seeing some action" to speaking hardly a word by the end of his journey. Interspersed throughout are interviews and footags of his concerned parents -- his mom, in particular, cries every time he calls.
This film should be enlightening for any fans of documentary film making, and anyone who'd like to see a window into the harsh scenes of war. Check out the trailer below (NSFW).
Armadillo will be showing Thursday, August 11 through Wednesday, August 24 at the FilmBar, 815 N. Second Street. Call 602-595-9187 or visit thefilmbarphx.com for ticket prices and show times.