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VISIONS DU RÉEL 2021 Concorso

David Herdies e Georg Götmark • Registi di Bellum – The Daemon of War

"La gente dà la colpa ai droni ma non sono i droni, siamo noi"


- I registi svedesi conoscono la loro tecnologia, ma si concentrano sull'aspetto umano della guerra

David Herdies e Georg Götmark  • Registi di Bellum – The Daemon of War
I registi David Herdies e Georg Götmark

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World-premiering in the International Feature Film Competition at Visions du Réel, David Herdies and Georg Götmark's Bellum – The Daemon of War [+leggi anche:
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shows a war photographer, a military contractor and an engineer all trying to make sense of the new face of conflicts, increasingly influenced by changing technology.

Cineuropa: A few years ago, there were so many Hollywood films about military drones, asking if pushing a button is the same as pulling a trigger. How did you see this dilemma?
Georg Götmark:
Personally, I don't think there is much difference, to be honest.

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David Herdies: We got the impression it's easier: you are far away, you have your 9-to-5 workday, you can have breakfast with your wife. But you look at this person that you are supposed to kill for maybe two days. You start to know them a little. So maybe you come even closer to violence?

We have heard from some people that it took them some time to say: “Hey, I am actually killing people!” It's all set up as a game, like you are playing Call of Duty or something. It takes a while to understand the consequences of pushing that button.

GG: We started thinking about bomber planes too – you are dropping bombs on Hiroshima or Nagasaki, killing thousands, yet you never actually see them. It's definitely easier to stand 100 meters away than having to punch someone in the face. 

DH: Part of the technology that's being developed now is about allowing drones to make the decisions. You give them assignments, but is it really more precise? It's a scary development, no doubt, but we felt it's more interesting to see how we feel about it. We shifted the focus from the drones to a more human aspect of war.

Nobody wants to talk about how exciting war can be for some people. It comes up in your film, though. With one person admitting it's “boring” to be back at home!
If we look at Bill, his boredom comes also from some kind of addiction. You get used to this kind of life, to your testosterone level being so hyped, but once he comes back, there is nothing – everything is so calm. He has to deal with his trauma, he can't sleep, so what does he do? He drinks, takes pills.

With Fredrik, the engineer, I remember reading that 80% of the money spent on the development of A.I. came from the defense industry. That's where the money is, so that's where you have to be. Maybe there is some excitement too, but I am not sure if that's the main trigger for them. What do you think, Georg?

GG: I think Fredrik is excited by war. It's a bit macho and he likes that [laughter]. But maybe he became more conscious of this “Frankenstein's monster” and what they are actually creating? I think it started to dawn on him.

How did you settle on these three? They are all on the “other side” of these conflicts.
We see war as something quite distant too. We made another film before, about Kenya, and it's something that documentary makers always do: they look at the victims. This time we wanted to look at other kinds of people.

DH: We were interested in looking at the everyday bureaucracy of the war machine, at what we would call “the perpetrators”. We felt that showing someone from Pakistan or Yemen would be almost an alibi, as if we had to justify what we were doing.

With Paula, we just felt there was something interesting about her photos. Georg was making a film about Swedish defense industry when he met Fredrik, and Bill we met when we found this small trailer park community on the other side of the Creech Air Force Base. There was a bar called Oasis, in the middle of the desert, and it was this microcosm of war history, frequented by veterans.

It sounds like this bar is their refuge? Now, if you go to fight for your country, there is no guarantee anyone will be grateful when you return.
A lot of people there are suffering from PTSD and some said that hearing the drones and the airplanes made them calmer. It reminded them of war. We had the idea to make this film just about this community at one point.

GG: We spent a lot of time with them without the camera, making friends, and gradually people became more relaxed. It's a fascinating place and I think they sensed we were genuinely interested, even though we were definitely outsiders.

DH: You need to be very humble, whatever you film. You try to understand something you don't know, but you also see things that maybe they don't see. 

One of the reasons why we didn't want to make a film only about drones was that it's a bit dangerous to look just at the technology. We are the ones creating it, after all, and we have been fighting wars for as long as we know. It's not that different! People blame the drones but it's not the drones – it's us. We are doing this.

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