It is in the last fight captured in Armadillo that the NATO soldiers, cornering a group of Taliban fighters in a ditch, are finally able to take the fight to the enemy — and they do so with gusto.
Whether they go over the line in killing wounded Taliban is in the eye of the beholder, and the soldiers immediately begin justifying their actions to themselves. They talk about how the wounded men moved and who could take a chance that they weren’t reaching to detonate a bomb? There is even a suggestion that the shootings were mercy killings for men dying slowly. The most potent aspect of the men’s solidarity in the face of criticism is their own accusation: How could anyone who was not there presume to judge them?
Read thoughts from filmmaker Janus Metz and other observers on the events of Armadillo, the war in Afghanistan and war documentaries, and add your own response below.
“You’re left with a situation that’s not caught directly on camera, but something that might not have been done according to the book. These elements, I think, are extremely disturbing, and in a perverse sense, as a filmmaker, very interesting.” | Read more »
Director, Where Soldiers Come From
The director of an Afghanistan war documentary told POV what she hoped audiences would take away from her film: “I want them to not see soldiers, but to see human beings. And not just to see it as a portrait of war… These are kids who sort of are just normal teenagers who got kind of caught by an impulsive decision.” | Read more »
Journalist, Kabul/New York
“How can we understand and evaluate the war in the first place? The embed film, as a genre, teaches us just how the narrative must be defined by its protagonists and their own ways of knowing.” | Read more »
Film critics and columnists have offered their takes online:
“The activity caught on film suggests that the stereotypes of machismo, insensitivity, and misconduct during battle — the sort typically attributed to America soldiers — are rooted in the universal experience of war.”
— Nicolas Rapold, The Wall Street Journal
“[Armadillo shows] soldiers hesitating, debating, or refraining from shooting at the enemy out of concern for civilians. In Armadillo, a Danish soldier does not call for fire against three plainly suspicious Afghan men until one finally reveals a weapon… When a Danish soldier in Armadillo sums up his feelings after a successful firefight by saying, ‘Making a difference is a cool feeling,’ he is talking about killing the enemy, not winning hearts and minds.”
— Bing West, Foreign Affairs
“What I saw in Armadillo was a group of amped-up young men high on the drug of war who survive a kill-or-be-killed situation, one where moral considerations have all but evaporated. Their behavior is not exemplary but it seems comprehensible, and those of us watching cannot know what we would do in the same situation.”
— Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com
“There is nothing in the film to suggest that the soldiers violate rules of war.”
— Lars Nørgaard Pedersen, Jyllands-Posten (in Danish)
“Says Metz: ‘It was my intention to place the viewer in a position where he could say that it’s not even possible to know what was going on. Maybe the soldiers don’t even know themselves.'”
— Geoffrey Macnab, The Guardian
“Daniel recounts the incident with undisguised glee. The men pose like tourists with the war booty slung around their necks. It would be easy to condemn them but having seen the film, you understand them — the sadness and fear they felt when their friends were killed, their adrenalin in battle and the consequent flood of relief and joy at a successful mission.”
— Kevin Macdonald, The Guardian
“Ordinary Afghans are constantly caught in the crossfire, and suffer no matter who prevails.”
— Eric Hynes, Time Out New York
What are your thoughts on the incident and the war in Afghanistan? Was the killing justified? Is it impossible to know? Add your reaction below.
Note: Read about the outcome of the investigation into the incident in the film update.