Dugma: The Button

Paul Salahadin Refsdal

'This is the detonation cord. This cord is connected to the button in the cabin. When I push this button, all the containers will explode. Everything in front of me will explode. Everything next to me as well. Inshallah.' With a sense of pride, Abu Qaswara is telling how he will blow himself up when his time comes, captured on film in this documentary by Norwegian journalist Paul Refsdal.

For several decades, Refsdal has been reporting from conflict areas. For Dugma: The Button, he follows several men who are waiting for the moment to take their trucks killed with explosives, break through the enemy lines and blow themselves up. The men are connected to the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda: Jabhat al Nusra. It took over one and a half years before the filmmaker had gained the trust of Jabhat al Nusra and could switch on his camera.

The result is astounding. We get to meet Abu Qaswara and the English convert Abu Basir al Britani. They passionately talk about their ideological motives and then go out and eat chicken with their friends, or organise a banana-eating contest. That image stands in stark contrast to what we expect of these men, and Refsdal’s mission to show the other side of this story succeeds with flying colours.

Text: Dirk van der Straaten


Paul Salahadin Refsdal
Ingvil Giske
Country of production
59 minutes
Spoken language
Arabic, English
Production company
World Sales
Journeyman Pictures