EURODOK: Two young men are waiting to be called to action as suicide bombers in Syria. Pål Refsdal’s recent documentary depicts a surprisingly intimate portrait.

Aleksander Huser
Huser is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: February 18, 2016
Country: Norway 2016, 58 min.

dugmaDugma – The Button paints a surprisingly intimate portrait of two voluntary front fighters waiting their turn on the martyr list to drive a lorry filled with explosives towards the enemy and hit the release button – in Arabic called «dugma». These are 32-year old Saudi Abu Quawara al-Maki and Lucas Kinney, a 26-year old convert from West-London now using the name Abu Basir al-Britani. Refsdal’s most recent film is not only remarkable due to the free access he had to these young men, but also because it depicts them as in parts ordinary and, not least, sympathetic people.

Ransom demand. But firstly, let us make a detour by explaining the director’s work: «I want to thank the authorities, they did a great job which I knew nothing about whilst kidnapped. » This is how Pål Refsdal (according to Nettavisen 16.11.09) introduced a 2009 press conference, in the aftermath of his kidnapping earlier the same month, by a Taliban-allied group, when in Afghanistan making a documentary.  Refsdal was in Afghanistan already as a 21-year old, as he in 1985 participated in the Mujahedin fighting against the Soviet forces. Later, as a journalist, he has frequently visited dangerous conflict areas, such as El Salvador, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Kosovo and Chechnya. After six days as a Taliban hostage, Refsdal was released. There was speculation whether this was due to him converting to Islam, but it was also claimed that it was he was proven to be a journalist, not a spy. The kidnappers, on their side, seem to have been motivated by ransom money. Their original demand was 50,000 dollar, which Refsdal managed to negotiate down to 20,000 dollar. However, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and the Foreign Office clearly stated that Norwegian authorities on principle would not give in to their random demands. The aforementioned great job by the authorities to free Refsdal, was said to involve 50-odd people. Afterwards, the Foreign Office decided not to Pursue Refsdal for the financial demands, despite being kidnapped in a region the Norwegian embassy in Kabul advised him against travelling to. Among the many involved in the release process was November Film producer Kjetil Johnsen. As …

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