This weekend, the best of the best in the world of movies are coming together for the 88th annual Academy Awards.
We here at NextGen MilSpouse always watch the Oscars to know “who wore it best,” but this year, we’ll be watching and cheering on the Danish film “A War” nominated in the category of Best Foreign Language Film.
“A War” tells the story of company commander Claus Pedersen (Pilou Asbæk) and his men who are stationed in an Afghan province. During a routine mission, the soldiers are caught in heavy crossfire and in order to save his men, Claus makes a decision that has grave consequences for him and his family back home.
This movie shows the human side of war. The human side of serving in this war – a war that defines our generation.
“It’s a portrayal of the war going on inside a man. The war that’s going inside his family at home and that all of us are a product of this same war,” writer and director Tobias Lindholm told NextGen MilSpouse. “This is the first war since World War II that is defining a generation.”
This generation, defined by a decade of fighting in Afghanistan, is connecting with this film. Lindholm found that service members and their spouses around the world relate to the common themes of this Danish film.
“We have a responsibility to make sure we do an accurate portrayal and in order to that we decided to share it with the people we are portraying,” Lindholm said.
Our parent company, MSB New Media, hosted a free advanced screening of “A War” in Fayetteville, N.C., earlier this month. More than 70 military spouses, service members and veterans watched the film and nodded along with its authenticity.
One viewer wrote:
…I went into this movie expecting realistic action and yes even violence but what I didn’t expect was the true sense of connection I walked away with…
She found herself connecting with Claus’ wife, Maria, who is managing the homefront with her 3 children. This same movie-goer went on to say
…I will tell you that from the perspective of a military spouse ‘A War’ has given me a chance to see that being a soldier means so much more than simply fighting a war. Soldiers develop relationships, friendships and support systems that are put through tests and trials like no other.
Lindholm said there have been similar reactions from soldiers and their spouses at screenings in the United Kingdom. After a showing at the 2016 Palm Springs Film Festival, a Marine veteran who served in Vietnam told Lindholm that this film was the “closest to being back there as I’ve ever felt.”
To Lindholm, that one simple comment was a great compliment. An accurate and authentic portrayal of service members and spouses was his aim for this film.
“This is not a pro-war or against-the-war film. That’s not what interests me,” Lindholm said. “What interests me is what we’re doing there. We need to have that conversation as a country. This film can help us do that.”
Lindholm pointed out that Denmark has had 20,000 individuals serve in the ongoing coalition operations in Afghanistan, which is a lot for a country of 5.5 million.
For comparison, Denmark shares the rough physical size, population, and economic weight as Maryland, and has lost an eerily similar number of soldiers in Afghanistan (Denmark 43, Maryland 46). As a country that has not encountered intense combat since the Second World War, Denmark’s experience in Afghanistan has been brutal — the Danes have lost more soldiers there, relative to population, than any other fighting coalition country — topping even the United States and United Kingdom.
–Matt Cavanaugh writes in The Way Home from ‘A War’
The inspiration for “A War” came after Lindholm read an article about a Danish soldier returning to Afghanistan for this third deployment.
“In that interview, the Danish soldier said that he wasn’t afraid of being killed during his third tour in Afghanistan. He was afraid of being prosecuted for his actions there,” Lindholm said. “We wanted to show the complexities of war. (In this film) we are trying to humanize soldiers, not turn our backs on them.”
Lindholm didn’t grow up in a military family and hasn’t served himself. So in order to support his goal of an authentic portrayal he “turned to the witnesses who have lived this life.”
“I haven’t been to war. I haven’t had to make those kinds of life-or-death decisions,” he said. “I needed help on how to show that.”
Lindholm invited veterans and Afghan refugees to be actors in the movie.
“We brought in Afghanistan veterans who had been there two or three times. They brought a brilliance to the film,” Lindholm said.
In fact, the majority of the actors in the film are Danish soldiers who fought in Afghanistan.
I have never been a soldier. I have never been at war. I have only observed war in the news and as entertainment. So when I decided to make A WAR, I had to find people who had witnessed war: Danish soldiers and Taliban warriors, relatives and refugees. I needed to understand the complexity and the logic, although I didn’t expect to tell the truth about warfare for I do not believe that such truth exists. But I wanted to understand in order to tell stories about humans in war because they do exist. And to me A WAR is about them.
–Tobias Lindholm, July 2015
When it comes to the Oscar nomination, Lindholm said the recognition is fantastic.
“When I saw that we were nominated I called the soldiers and the refugees that bravely supported and trusted me to tell this story, not knowing how it would turn out,” Lindholm said. “I’ll be celebrating the nomination with them more than anyone else that night.”
“A War” has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It is rated R for language and some war-related imagery.