Our favorite TV detective show has always been Columbo. Peter Falk played a ragtag, seemingly absent-minded, and irritating homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. Invariably criminal suspects would not know what to make of his beat-up raincoat, his habit of going off-topic, or his bumbling nature. Best of all was his habit of ending an interrogation by walking out the door and then re-entering to say, "Just one more thing."
There are plenty of "more things" in this documentary about an investigation into the death of United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold. In 1961, he was on his way to negotiate a cease-fire between UN forces and troops of the Republic of Katanga when his plane went down in the jungle; everyone on board was killed. At the time, the cause of the crash was ruled "pilot error." But questions persist about whether the plane was actually shot down as part of a conspiracy to stop Hammarskjold.
At the time of his death, the Secretary-General was working to change the way African nations dealt with the rest of the world economically. He wanted to protect the new countries from the control of Western interests, especially the powerful mining companies. This took courage and moral stature, and Hammarskjold had both. To gain insight into his beliefs, as revealed in his spiritual writings in Markings, see our September 18th Naming the Days Feature. This quotation has the most relevance to his last days: "In our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action."
With the circumstances around Hammarskjold's death still uncertain, Danish journalist and filmmaker Mads Brugger decided to investigate this cold case himself. He joins up with Goran Bjorkdahl, a Swede living in Africa, who has been conducting his own investigation into the mystery and has some ideas about who might be responsible for what he is sure was a murder. They interview people who claim to have heard shots or an explosion before the plane crashed and listen to a tape of a mercenary pilot bragging about his involvement.
Like two schoolboys given a chance to play Columbo, they ask complicated questions, follow clues that turn out to be dead ends, and come face-to-face with the iron-clad secrecy surrounding the international intrigue of the United States and Britain.
The most dramatic path leads to up-close encounters with a secret paramilitary death squad based in South Africa, who among other horrible deeds inspired by white supremacy were involved in a monstrous scheme to inject the AIDS virus into black Africans. Just when they are about to give up on piecing their puzzle together, they come across a key player who has no qualms about telling all.
Cold Case Hammarskjold is a chilling and well-told account of a conspiracy that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat and shaking your head with astonishment.