I love a good conspiracy theory. Don’t get me wrong, though: not all conspiracy theories are fun. Some are silly, some are crazy, and some, to be honest, are just too dire to really think about. But in the new documentary, Cold Case Hammarskjöld, director Mads Brügger posits a conspiracy theory that is a little bit of everything. And that’s exactly what makes it so compelling.
We are used to scandals today, but, back in 1961, when Dag Hammarskjöld, the UN Secretary General, died in a plane crash in Africa, it made headlines worldwide. Only the second Secretary General ever, Hammarskjöld was someone who took his role seriously and was a vocal and powerful supporter and defender of nations asserting their independence, especially in Africa, where countries were increasingly rebelling against centuries of colonial rule. Looking back, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that these colonial powers, such as France and Great Britain, whose economic interests in the continent were deep-seated and dependent on their control, whether directly or by puppet regimes, would have felt threatened by the world’s top diplomat making it his mission to support efforts for independence. The question of whether or not any foreign government may have actually had a hand in the death of Hammarskjöld is one that has been lingering for nearly 60 years. If, however, you expect Brügger’s film to contain some bombshell revelation that will topple MI-6 or the CIA, you might be disappointed—slightly. But if you like real-life mysteries that have layers upon layers of lies, cover-ups, villains and geo-political implications, you might just love this story.