Desert Fox and the Informant

Curveball

Director: Johannes Naber

Cast: Sebastian Blomberg, Thorsten Merten, Dar Salim, Virginia Kull, Michael Wittenborn, Franziska Brandmeier

German Entry for the European Film Festival 2020

German director Johannes Naber’s brilliant political satire Curveball is an absolute must see and this year’s European Film Festival held virtually in South Africa and scheduled to be released in Germany in November 2020. Curveball premiered in the Berlinale Special section at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival held in February 2020.

Sebastian Blomberg (The Baader-Meinhof Complex, The People vs Fritz Bauer) plays the unassuming but slightly naïve German chemical weapons expert Dr Wolf who unwillingly gets roped into a political conspiracy to prove that Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi president was harbouring chemical weapons.

Set between 1998 and 2003, Curveball is the terrifyingly true story of an Iragi fugitive Rafid Alwan wonderfully played by Iragi actor Dar Salim who has also appeared in Lee Tamahori’s brilliant film The Devil’s Double opposite British star Dominic Cooper.

Alwan is questioned by Dr Wolf on the existence of anthrax and other chemical weapons and their existence in Baghdad, which he eventually concedes that there could be such weapons driven around Iraq on trucks which is flimsy and unreliable intelligence at best. What makes Dr Wolf rely on this informant even more is that in Curveball they form a formidable friendship with Wolf teaching Alwan how to use a snow sleigh and Alwan proving that he is quite an unreliable source especially after his drunken escapades with whiskey.

Thrown into this bizarre friendship, is Dr Wolf’s feisty and ruthless CIA agent Leslie played by Big Little Lies star Virginia Kull who exploits Dr Wolf’s naiveté to steal the informant from the Germans to assist the Americans to construct a premise for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. No matter that both the German and American espionage service know that the Intel that Alwan has fed them is entirely fabricated.

Director Johannes Naber skilfully guides the audience through the key events of that period from the chemical weapons experts employed by the UN to search for biological weapons in Iraq in 1998 to the election of George W. Bush as U. S. President in November 1999 to the 2001 World Trade Centre attacks in New York City.

Curveball is both surreal, hilarious and utterly unbelievable made more bizarre by the Kafkaesque bureaucracy of the intelligence services of America and Germany.

Thorsten Merten plays Dr Wolf’s ambitious boss Schatz while Michael Wittenborn plays the more pragmatic Retzlaff.

Curveball is fascinating viewing especially as it deals with recent historical events and demonstrates that the truth can be constructed for a political purpose in this case used to invade a foreign country. Curveball gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is highly recommended for those that enjoy incisive political satires.

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