The Deminer follows a Kurdish mine-disposal expert as he risks life and limb every day. But are documentary-makers – and the audience – complicit?
Fakhir Berwari – or “Crazy Fakhir”, as the Americans dubbed the Kurdish Peshmerga colonel – did some of the deadliest work on the planet. Without robots or blast suits, he disarmed thousands of mines; first in the aftermath of the second Gulf war, then, after a layoff enforced by the loss of his right leg, during the reconquest of Iraq from the Islamic State. The latter was more dangerous: Isis packed abandoned houses with IEDs in entranceways, under rubble, inside furniture. We see the colonel teetering from fatigue, but always ready to go the extra mile. “Fakhir knew he was the fastest and the most experienced,” says Hogir Hirori, director of The Deminer. “If he didn’t do it, then many more people would die.”
The Deminer makes for nervous viewing. Each of the four detonations we see ratchets up the sense of inevitability. It’s not quite a snuff movie, though haunted by a similar balefulness. What moral responsibilities do documentary-makers have when their subject is a danger to himself?