The Brooklyn Connection: How to Build a Guerilla Army (2005)

“When you sell a weapon, you don’t know where it’s going to.”

The Brooklyn Connection: How to Build a Guerrilla Army directed by Klaartje Quirijins and based on the book Be Not Afraid, For You Have Sons in America by Stacy Sullivan examines exactly how Brooklyn roofing contractor, Albanian immigrant Florin Krasniqi manages to arm a guerrilla army in Kosovo. This short documentary is surprisingly powerful, and without being heavy-handed, it manages to make a strong statement on several issues–including gun control, the situation on Kosovo, and by extension, the viability of peacekeeping attempts in a society with intricate extended tribal loyalties.

The film begins with an overview of the political situation in the region noting that while the political future of Kosovo is decided, a substantial NATO peacekeeping force remains in Kosovo to ensure further ethnic violence does not occur. Then the film moves to a scene which shows Florin in Albania unloading weapons out of the back of his vehicle. Florin, married with children, and the owner/operator of a successful roofing business says that he became committed to the effort to supply arms to the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) after his cousin was killed while attacking a Serb police station. Florin has a video of the funeral and visits his cousin’s grave whenever he returns to Albania.

So how does Florin–who’s just a regular person–not an arms-dealer–manage to snap up enough weapons to supply a guerrilla army? Well, according to him, it’s rather simple. The film shows Florin buying weapons at various locations–huge warehouses and small gun shops. In one of the best scenes in the film, Florin tells a gun shop owner that he needs a huge 50mm gun for “elephant hunting.” It’s clear the gun shop owner doesn’t believe a word of it, but this is a system where questions may be asked, and tongue-in-cheek answers are acceptable. Florin also explains the logistics of flying with weapons. At one point, he takes a commercial flight with this HUGE gun in tow, and at another point, he explains matter-of-factly that once he had so many weapons, he just rented a plane and flew over to Albania with his cargo. And according to Florin, buying enough weapons to arm a small guerrilla army is a piece of cake. If you want a particular weapon: “You can order it over the internet and have it shipped to your home.”

At several points the filmmaker intercedes to ask why Florin has this mission, whether or not he has killed, and the morality of his actions. Florin explains that he feels morally connected to the fate of Albanian people–“Family extends to clan, and clan extends to tribe.” While the film doesn’t dig into where the 30 million dollars for these weapons comes from, there’s an implication that funds are raised in the large, clannish ex-pat community. One scene depicts Florin on a roofing job, and he introduces his workers–Albanians, former soldiers, some with wounds and scars and some with prosthetic limbs.

The film includes clips of a fundraiser for John Kerry, and we see Florin writing a $1,000 cheque towards Kerry’s election campaign while he rubs shoulders with Richard Holbrooke and Wesley Clark. There are also several interviews with NATO personnel who explain their mission–and its difficulties–in Kosovo. At 57 minutes, the documentary is short. However, there are quite a few worthwhile extras: deleted scenes, a filmmaker biography, a filmmaker interview, and an update on Florin Krasniqi. Amazing stuff.

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