“His cause was good, but his solution was bad…”
In the autumn of 1995, a Danish dissident called Niels Holck was concocting an audacious plan to try and help rebel factions in West Bengal fight the oppressive Communist Party of India. With the help of Peter Bleach, an ex British Intelligence Officer turned ‘defense trader’, Niels wanted to use a light aircraft to parachute drop an assortment of AK47s and other military weapons in to the region to arm the insurgents. (sound familiar?)
Unbeknownst to Niels however, Peter was in communication with the UK government, whom had told him that during a layover in India, the government would arrest the plane and he would get the credit for stopping an international terrorist. What could possibly go wrong…?
Andreas Koefoed’s docu-drama combines interviews with both protagonists as well as reconstructed scenes with actors Paul McEwan (Peter) and Andreas Führer (Niels) to tell the outlandish story of the vastly different fate of the two men. Whereas Niels managed to escape and go into hiding, Peter spent the next few years ignored by the British government languishing in an India prison cell.
With source material this intriguing, I can’t help but wonder whether a feature film would have been more engaging to a wider audience. Being a documentary-phile, seeing the real life egos of Holck and Bleach was utterly fascinating. But there are so many interesting characters and plot-twists that only the most cynical studio executive would reject it. (I’d cast Paul Bettany and Timothy Dalton myself…)
Essentially The Arms Drop is a story of betrayal, and the bizarre opportunities for terror in a globalized world. A Danish, Latvian and British conspiracy to help the West Bengalese with weapons dropped from a plane. The timing is perfect, of course, with the UK (and everyone else) trying to figure out which paramilitaries to sell/give arms to across the Middle East without catastrophic discernible blowback.
As a political thriller, the film is as compelling as anything coming out of Hollywood. And as a morality tale, I think the British government have once again got to look at themselves in a very grubby mirror…
The Arms Drop is dropping into Raindance on 30th September. More info here