Afghan war movie probes German historical angst, self-image

Tue Feb 11, 2014 12:07pm EST
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By Gareth Jones

BERLIN (Reuters) - Frustration with a lack of open discussion in Germany over its involvement in Afghanistan and over Berlin's treatment of Afghans helping its troops there spurred the making of the film "Inbetween Worlds" by director Feo Aladag.

The movie's premiere on Tuesday at the Berlin International Film Festival coincided with signs that Germany - long wary of overseas military entanglements due to its Nazi past - is becoming keener to play a more active global role in keeping with its wealth and size.

The film, whose German title is "Zwischen Welten", provides a very German perspective on the Afghan conflict and on the gulf in perceptions and expectations dividing the people of the poor central Asian nation and the Westerners trying to help it.

Aladag recounted how irked she had felt on seeing a picture of a German soldier in full combat gear serving in Afghanistan who was clearly there "not just to build bridges".

"Germany is doing this now, so why have we seen no feature films about soldiers fighting or dying in combat? ... We have to get a handle on this and be allowed to tell stories about it," she told a news conference.

"I was also irritated by the way German politics deals with our local helpers working for ISAF (the NATO mission in Afghanistan). I thought the way they were being treated was unfair," she said, referring to Germany's reluctance to grant visas to Afghans whose work puts their own lives in danger.

Despite having peacekeepers deployed today in various overseas missions, Germany still feels constrained by history and prefers to emphasize the humanitarian responsibilities of its troops, who operate under restrictive rules of engagement.

"Inbetween Worlds" focuses on the relationship between German commander Jesper, played by Ronald Zehrfeld, and a young Afghan interpreter, Tarik, after their unit is sent to a remote village to protect it against Taliban insurgents.   Continued...

Austrian director, producer and screenwriter Feo Aladag addresses during a press conference to promote the movie "Zwischen Welten" (Inbetween Worlds) during the 64th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 11, 2014. REUTERS/Stefanie Loos