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Americans twist the truth about biological weapons in Iraq, in this real-life blend of political thriller and comedy made in Germany - live from the Berlinale


The truth isn’t always what it seems. The establishment has the habit of subverting facts in order to suit their purpose. Reality is an elusive concept. People lie, governments lie. Sometimes they do it in order to seem to seem more powerful. Sometimes they do it in order to justify the unjustifiable. German bio-weapon expert Arnd Wolf (Sebastian Blomberg) lied to his American lover about his marital status, claiming that he was married, so that he did not “look too weak”. Iraqi Rafid Alwan (Dar Salim) lied about having worked as a chemical engineer for Saddam Hussein because he wished to become an informant for the German government and therefore settle in the European country

Rafid arrived in Germany in 1999, claiming to possess detailed information about a plant that manufactured mobile biological weapon laboratories (bio-weapon lorries) as part of the alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme. He was simply telling Germans what they wished to hear. He became a prominent informant, and received a code name, the titular Curveball. He understood that the “truth” was meant to mirror the West’s desire to vilify Saddam Hussein, and that reality should be relegated to the confines of his knowledge. In fact, the idea about the lorry came from a document that Wolf himself had written. Rafid was feeding back to Wolf and others in the BND (the German Secret Service) a bizarre theory that they had concocted themselves.

Soon, the BND realised that Rafid was but a fraud, but that didn’t matter. The false information that Curveball provided suited their agenda. Our clumsy hero Wolf was the only one with a scintilla of integrity. He considered going to the press and denouncing the farce. Rafid’s “knowledge” was particularly helpful to the CIA. The Yankees would resort to extreme measures in order to obtain a statement from him. The Iraqi “informant” lived in danger, possibly persecuted by both Saddam’s secret service, the Mukhabarat, and the American intelligence agency. A bizarre incident took place on New Year’s day 2000, months before the Iraq War, and Rafid was kidnapped. Wolf came to his rescue, in a entertaining sequence including car chases and slapstick elements. In fact, the entire movie is dotted with comedic and farcical elements, as if mocking the conveniently malleable nature of “the truth”.

Crucially, we learn about Germany’s complicity in the Iraq War. Despite technically opposing the occupation, the German government failed to reveal that the “intelligence” used by the US was a merely a shoddy fabrication. The German Foreign Minister watches in silence as Colin Powell presented detailed drawings of the “bio weapon lorries”, despite knowing that never existed. We also learn that one of the BND officials who helped to ensure that the lie was never uncovered is now one of the most powerful politicians in Germany. Similarly to the CIA agents responsible for Iraq torture programme, who has now become a prominent director (as revealed in Scott Z. Burns’s The Report, released last year). The writing is on the wall: lying pays off, both in Germany and the US.

Curveball is showing in the 70th Berlin International Film Festival, in the Special Gala section.

By Victor Fraga - 25-02-2020

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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