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PopPolitics: How Post-World War II Story ‘Land of Mine’ Is a Warning for Europe Today

Land of Mine TIFF
Courtesy of TIFF

The Danish movie “Land of Mine,” nominated for a foreign-language Oscar this year, is in many ways a local story of the teenage German POWs who, in the immediate aftermath of World War II, are forced to defuse tens of thousands of land mines planted along Denmark’s coast.

But director Martin Zandvliet and producer Mikael Rieks tell Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM that the movie is also a warning sign of the dangers of European disunion.

“It kind of scares me because in the beginning, [the movie] was about the way I saw our nation portraying itself,” Zandvliet says of the response to the film in Europe. “But it also was about the things going on in Europe, about closing down Europe, talking about building a wall around Europe and not letting the Syrian refugees in.”

He said that “when people see it, they don’t just see it as a dusty old period piece. Try to make it as contemporary and emotional as possible. They are feelings that we still have.” He said that he was “kind of shocked about how relevant” the movie is given that so much reflects hate and fear.

Rieks says, “It is very very important to note that the longest period of peace in European history has been the past 70 years, because nations are united. United Nations. United States. United Europe. And now we are afraid this will all go up in smoke and close our borders. That is why I think on a very local scale this movie is very global.”

The movie focuses on a Danish sergeant (Roland Moller) who supervises a group of German POWs tasked with defusing the mines. The sergeant has a hatred for the Germans, but gradually gains some sympathy for his POWs, all of them teenage boys who have long odds of ever getting to return home. In total, 2,000 POWs were assigned to diffuse 1.5 million landmines, according to some estimates, and casualties were high.

Listen below:

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“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety’s Ted Johnson, airs 2-3 p.m. ET/11-noon PT on SiriusXM’S political channel POTUS. It also is available on demand.