Danish director Mads Brügger (photo) whose award-winning documentary, The Ambassador (2011), caused diplomatic controversy - Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called for his extradition, because he allegedly used a fake diplomatic title when filming in the country – has found another contentious issue for his next film: the death of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld in a plane crash on September 18, 1961, in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).
[ Related: Watch interview with Mads Brügger about The Ambassador ]
Brügger has shot a few scenes for Operation Celeste in Africa (not Liberia) with Swedish diplomat and consul to Burkina Faso, Göran Björkdahl, who has been investigating the accident since he acquired a fragment of the plane's wreckage with mysterious holes in it years ago. "His conclusions present a very different and disturbing picture of Hammarskjöld's demise," Brügger told local press.
During the 1960 Congo crisis, the UN secretary general (between 1953-1961) was informed of fighting between UN forces and troops from Moise Tshombe's Katanga province. He was on the way to negotiate a ceasefire when his Douglas DC6 SE-BDY crashed just before landing in Ndola, killing 15 people on board; the only survivor died soon after from his injuries.
The plane was found 15 hours after it plowed through a forest and burned. Three different inquiries looked into the accident and the theories of an air or ground attack, sabotage, material failure or human error were all investigated; the UN Investigation Commission "found no evidence to support any of these theories nor was able to exclude the possible causes which it has also considered".
"Hammarskjöld had advocated for the new independant nations in Africa, trying to protect them against neo-colonial interests, and thus fallen out with all the major powers. In the UN, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev demanded that he be fired," explained Brügger, who will explore the theory that Hammarskjöld was murdered by a conspiracy of major powers.
Pitched at last week's CPH:DOX, the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, as a political thriller - 'John le Carré meets Graham Greene - Operation Celeste, which will go into production next May, will reunite Brügger with The Ambassador producer Peter Engel, who will stage the project for Copenhagen's Zentropa-controlled Electric Park.
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