Cold Case Hammarskjöld

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Cold Case Hammarskjöld
Directed byMads Brügger
Produced byNadja Nørgaard Kristensen
Written byMads Brügger
Based on1961 Ndola United Nations DC-6 crash
Music byJohn Erik Kaada
CinematographyTore Vollan
Edited byNicolás Nørgaard Staffolani
Distributed byMagnolia Pictures (USA)
Release date
  • January 26, 2019 (2019-01-26) (Sundance Film Festival)
  • August 16, 2019 (2019-08-16) (United States)
Running time
128 minutes
  • Denmark
  • Norway
  • Sweden
  • Belgium
Box office$104,965[1]

Cold Case Hammarskjöld is a documentary film by Danish film maker Mads Brügger that depicts the death of Dag Hammarskjöld in a plane crash in 1961 and a theory that a white supremacist organisation attempted to spread HIV among black Africans.

The film investigates the possibility that Hammarskjöld's plane, which crashed in Northern Rhodesia, was shot down by Belgian-British mercenary pilot Jan van Risseghem. After unsuccessful attempts to conclusively prove that theory, the film veers off to investigate the mysterious mercenary organisation SAIMR, managing to contact two new witnesses that claim to have been involved with the organisation. Parts of the movie are meta-cinematic, reflecting upon theatrical methods used (role playing, dressing up and employment of two African secretaries) and the true motivations of the filmmaker.

The film Cold Case Hammarskjöld was a winner at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in category "World Cinema - Documentary". It opened in US movie theatres on 16 August 2019.[2][3]


Mads Brügger teams up with Göran Björkdahl, who received from his father a metal plate believed to be a piece from the Albertina (Hammarskjöld's plane). They develop and investigate the theory that a smaller jet plane opened fire on the Albertina near Ndola and brought it down, possibly after an attempt to have a bomb on board go off after take-off in Lubumbashi did not succeed. Their revelations trigger a new investigation into Hammarskjöld's death; as a part of this new investigation Björkdahl's metal plate is examined and determined to not be authentic. Near Ndola airport, Brügger and Björkdahl locate what they believe to be the burial site of the wreckage of the Albertina, and they make a comical attempt at excavating it, but are soon stopped by local authorities.

The film moves to South Africa, where the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1998 revealed a document with an outline for the assassination of Hammarskjöld. Brügger and Björkdahl want to trace the South African Institute for Maritime Research (SAIMR), the organization behind this document, through its believed leader, Keith Maxwell. Keith is rumored to have operated a number of medical clinics in the townships of South Africa, though he was not a medical doctor. The investigators believe SAIMR to have been a mercenary organization operating by order of MI6 and the CIA, and involved in the Hammarskjöld assassination, but they cannot prove this despite recovering the first part of Maxwell's fictionalized autobiography. They also cannot explain the medical clinics, apart from Maxwell's strong interest in AIDS.

The final part of the film brings forward two new witnesses, claimed to be former SAIMR members or close relatives. These witnesses confirm that SAIMR was a clandestine mercenary organization. They claim SAIMR served the interests of white supremacy in Africa, and that it ran operations to administer the HIV virus to black people in South Africa and Mozambique through cover-up clinics, with the goal of eradicating them. Brügger and Björkdahl recover the second part of the autobiography of Maxwell, which confirms the involvement of SAIMR in the Hammarskjöld assassination. The first witness claims the playing card depicted in one of the photos of Hammarskjöld's corpse is internal code for CIA involvement.

Critical Response[edit]

Dr Salim Abdool Karim claimed in an article published in the The New York Times that spreading the HIV virus would not have been technically feasible at the time.[4] The article labels this claim a conspiracy theory.


  1. ^ "Monos". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  2. ^ Mikkonen, Minttu (14 January 2019). "Tuore dokumentti väittää ratkaisseensa yhden kylmän sodan ajan suurimmista arvoituksista: Palkkasoturi tunnusti ampuneensa alas YK:n pääsihteerin Dag Hammarskjöldin" ['A new documentary claims one of the biggest puzzles of the Cold War era has been solved: A mercenary confessed to having shot down UN General Secretary Dag Hammarskjöld']. Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). Sanoma. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  3. ^ "Cold Case Hammarskjöld". Sundance Institute. 2019.
  4. ^ Apuzzo, Matt (2019-01-27). "Quest to Solve Assassination Mystery Revives an AIDS Conspiracy Theory". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-09-30.

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