2019 Sundance Docs in Focus: COLD CASE HAMMARSKJÖLD

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Tore Vollan

Mads Brügger investigates the possibility of foul play in the 1961 death of the United Nations Secretary-General.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition


Sundance Program Description:

In 1961, United Nations secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane mysteriously crashed, killing Hammarskjöld and most of the crew. It’s understood that because Hammarskjöld was, at the time, advocating for Congo’s independence (against the wishes of European mining companies and other powerful entities), the “crash” was an assassination. With the case still unsolved 50-plus years later, Danish journalist, filmmaker, and provocateur Mads Brügger (THE RED CHAPEL (2010), THE AMBASSADOR (2012)) leads us down an investigative rabbit hole to unearth the truth. He, his Swedish private-investigator sidekick, and a host of co-conspirators tirelessly pursue a winding trail of clues, but they turn up more mysteries than revelations. Scores of false starts, dead ends, and elusive interviews later, they begin to sniff out something more monumental than anything they’d initially imagined.

In his signature agitprop style, Brügger becomes both filmmaker and subject, challenging the very nature of truth by “performing” the role of truth seeker. As Brügger uncovers a critical secret that could send shockwaves around the world, we realize that sometimes absurdity and irony are the emboldening ingredients needed to confront what’s truly sinister.

Some Background:

  • Mads Brügger
    Past Sundance docs:


    Brügger won the World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize for THE RED CHAPEL. He recently made his fiction feature directorial debut with THE SAINT BERNARD SYNDICATE, which premiered at Tribeca last year.


  • Peter Engel
    Past Sundance docs:


    Wingman Media’s Engel focuses on documentaries on politics and human rights.

  • Andreas Rocksén

    This is the first Sundance credit for the Stockholm-based co-founder of Laika Film & Television.

  • Bjarte M Tveit
    Past Sundance docs:

    ON A TIGHTROPE (2007)

    Piraya Film’s Tveit focuses on edgy political projects. He notably co-produced the Oscar-nominated THE LOOK OF SILENCE and THE ACT OF KILLING.


  • Bram Crols

    This marks the first Sundance credit for the Antwerp-based head of production company Associate Directors.


  • Nicolás Norgaard Staffolani

    The Argentine-born, Copenhagen-based Staffolani makes his Sundance debut with this project.

Why You Should Watch:
Enfant terrible Brügger brings his distinctive touch to what in other hands might be treated as a deadly earnest crime scene investigation procedural. Instead, the result is an irreverent, genre-bending political thriller sure to generate controversy.

More Info:

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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