Land of Mine
by writer/director Martin Zandvliet
Someone once told me that a man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying…. I believe that goes for nations as well.
When first I fell upon this story, I couldn’t believe that I’d never heard about it. A country’s history is after all a country’s history no matter how cruel it may be. We must and have to learn from our mistakes. We have to. As humans, but also as nations. If the past is forgotten, history will only repeat itself.
There seems to be a consensus in film on making people appear beautiful and flawless. But I believe people are at their most attractive when it’s visible that they are carrying the burden of life. That goes for countries as well.
As a teenager growing up in Denmark I dreamt of becoming a professional surfer. I loved the beach. Our summers were spent soaking in the sun, playing football in the sand and crashing through the sea. It was a magical place that represented to us all a great sense of peace and freedom. But years later I discovered our shores were filled with horrific ghosts.
During WWII more than 2.2 million landmines were buried on the Danish west coast because the German army thought the allied invasion of Europe would come through there. It did not.
In May 1945, more than 2,000 German prisoners of war, many of them just teenage boys, were now forced to remove and disarm those landmines. It seemed only fair that it was them. Someone wrote if you’re old enough to go to war, you’re old enough to clear up after it. Their lives were now in the hands of a Danish sergeant with revenge in his eyes. He brutally forces them to crawl on their hands and knees for miles, poking sticks into the sand every few inches, methodically hunting for mines. With just the slightest misstep these boys could be extinguished in an instant. Eventually, the sergeant must choose to look past hatred and anger and recognize these boys as human beings. It forces him to redefine the boundaries between the right to hate and the ability to forgive.
To me, this felt like a story that was very relevant today and worth telling. An untold story I had to tell. It reminded me that at any moment, if we are not careful, all of our freedom and values can be so abruptly taken away. Ultimately, my hope is that Land of Mine can help provoke us all toward the idea that an eye-for-an-eye mentality yields no victories and only makes losers of us all. Empathy is, and has to be, the only thing we as human beings are all fighting for.