Cinema, politics and deception

Complete shock is the first reaction. You have the feeling that something very important has just happened in Denmark and you’ve completely missed it. In fact, if The Financial Times had not published a photograph of Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen just the day before, you would have been convinced that he had been killed, and at the hand of his lover Emil. Danish filmmaker Morten Hartz Kaplers seems to have no moral inhibitions whatsoever. Not only has he made a mockumentary about the political scene in his country today and cast the real prime minister in the lead, but he also shows Rasmussen indulging in a passionate and fatal love affair with a young artist, which he ultimately pays for with his life. His film, titled «AFR» and recently screened in the Focus section of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival in what was one of the festival’s biggest screening events, has more surprises in store for Rasmussen. Though a leader of the center-right coalition of his Liberal Party and the Conservative People’s Party, which took office in 2001, he has become known as the «Gandhi of his era,» a man who wants to change the world – as his colleagues state in front of the cameras – and whose insistence on writing off Third World debt put even Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi on the spot. Kaplers’s work is disciplined and realistic. He has taken great advantage of the power of editing and digital technology to reconstruct reality with surgical precision. He places the element of imagination at the service of satire and reveals what goes on behind the scenes in politics by using its own weapons against it. Sarcastic, bold and on the mark, «AFR» has but one aim: to create a sense of unease, revelation and questioning. «The subject of the film is deception,» noted the director. «It’s about how politicians can misguide the media and how the media can, in turn, misguide politicians. And, finally, how both can misguide the public.» The reactions provoked by «AFR» were diverse, sharp and expected. It was debated at length by political and cultural panels, but no one dared consider banning it from theaters. The filmmaker was sued, firstly by Danish nationalist party leader Pia Kjaersgaard, who appears in the film but, as it later turned out, did not know what «AFR» was about. «AFR» is the epitome of deception. But who could judge it by moral standards? Who can say that they know exactly what goes on in any given situation without being a liar? And, ultimately, who can deny that cinema is a political art and politics an art of deception?