Norway's youth league massacre in Paul Greengrass' July 22 screened at Venice

By Moira Sullivan
The Norwegian island of Utoya

British director Paul Greengrass has made an English language film called 22 July where a disturbed assassin claiming political motive, Anders Behring Breivik, blew up government buildings in Oslo. He then went to a Workers Youth League summer camp on the island of Utoya and massacred 69 young people and injured 200 more on July 22 2011. The connection between the two attacks were designed to target the labor party of the Prime Minister of Norway and its youth league that three Norwegian Prime Ministers have attended. The Prime Minister at the time (played by Ola Furuseth ) was Jens Stoltenberg, currently the General director of NATO.

The summer camp experience is one of the joyous times for young people but this one became a horrible tragedy of those massacred for their families and survivors. The bloodshed is followed during the massacre where Breivik picks off the students who are running targets. Dressed as a policeman he gains the trust of students inside a building and then announces they are going to die. Two of the young people are brothers – Viljar (Jonas Strand Gravli)  who is shot multiple times and Torje Isak (Bakli Aglen)  who escapes unharmed. Their mother Christin (Maria Bock ) is running for mayor of Svalbard and she and their husband anxiously await news of their sons who survive .

Viljar’s family is the focus of the fictionalized film. Viljar loses the sight of his eye and full use of his leg. In hospital he is visited by Lara Rachid (Seda Witt) whose sister died on the island . This friendship continues throughout his rehabilitation.

The other focus of the film is Breivik and his trial in court. For most of the families it is the opportunity to confront the murderer of their children and loved ones. Viljar is called to testify and his goal in rehabilitation is to walk into the courtroom and stay strong. Yet his candid statement where he shows vulnerability helps not only himself but everyone who suffered loss.

Breivik is shown claiming that he is surrounded by a brotherhood who want to stop what they call "the Islamization of Europe" but when one of the leaders is contacted, he denies that Breivik was a part of any grand plan. Breivik was given a life term sentence in prison.

The decision to change the language of the film to English makes this event accessible to an international audience for it is as an international issue. Other countries in Europe have organized groups such as Great Britain against the so-called Islamization of Europe and it is this audience that Greengrass will succeed in reaching. The film debuted at the Venice Film festival 5 September and received and honorable mention  SIGNIS Award from the Roman Catholic lay movement for communication media professionals.

© 2018 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 09/12/18
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