Film maker Martin Zandvliet says his film ''Land of Mine'' is rooted in compassion and forgiveness. Rough Cut (no reporter narration)
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: A country's dark secret becomes the subject of an Oscar nominated film. Danish filmmaker Martin Zandvliet tells the true story of how German POWs were ordered to disable and remove 2 million land mines planted by the Nazis off the coast off Denmark after World Two. Although based in reality, it took Zandvliet four years to create the stories of the young men tasked with this awesome responsibility. Over the course of the film, the relationship between the POWs and the sergeant assigned to watch over them turns from one of hate to compassion. "It took me awhile to kind of find out what I wanted to say about it and with it. But you always start out at a place as a director, or I do, and then I search all the gray areas and then I ended up going back to where I started that it was about. Hate and forgiveness and dilemmas that happens after war," said Zandvliet who also directed the film. Zandvliet hopes his film can serve as part of the solution to the current culture of hate and divisiveness. "We talk more and more about building walls, building borders, closing down countries. That's also why the title is 'Land of Mine' and why he shouts in the beginning, this is my land. Because Europe was supposed to be free open borders, bringing us closer together and it seems like the world is getting more and more divided." "It's always been allowed to kind of hate the Germans because of what they did. Which is stigmatizing and it's - and now I feel that it's starting again. 70 years after it seems like we haven't learned anything about anything. And I think it's important that we don't forget the past," he added. In the telling of such a simple story, Zandvliet said he used horror film techniques in order to make the movie entertaining and put thought into when explosions would take place. "I wanted it to be like a surprise, that people actually thought 'ok, we're good to go, nothing is going to happen here.' And basically used that trick throughout the movie. So we didn't - we wouldn't feel or know when something's going to happen." The story is considered by some as a stain on Denmark's history, which caused Zandvliet to receive hate mail. "I was quite surprised and I didn't really know how to handle it. If I should answer them back and say, 'oh, it wasn't my intention, it's not about pointing fingers at the nation it's more about humanity and how we treat each other. It's a comment about our society now really. But I ended up not answering any of them, just deleting all of them." Zandvliet said he is looking forward to attending the Academy Awards as a nominee in the best foreign film category. "I want to stop and watch and be present and just feel it. It's, as a filmmaker, it's a big thing. It is still the biggest thing in the world and it is in the land of opportunities, you know. So I'm looking forward to it." The Oscars will be held on February 26 in Los Angeles, California.