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Erik Poppe (‘Utoya July 22’): A united Europe is essential to defeat the hate speech

Posted 2019/07/19580

Erik Poppe (‘Utoya July 22’): A united Europe is essential to defeat the hate speech

The Norwegian director signs a chilling work that reconstructs the massacre perpetrated in 2011 by a far-right terrorist, which killed more than 70 children and young people.

A single sequence shot that reconstructs the terror of a girl victim of the terrorist attacks on the right of July 22, 2011 in Norway . This is the chilling proposal of Erik Poppe in Utoya, July 22 , a film that works as a thriller distressing and as a mirror of the threats of violent extremism that once for this part shakes the world.

Released at the Berlinale of 2018, with no little controversy, Utoya, July 22 , which arrives in theaters this Friday, July 19, fictionalizes the day when the murderous extremist Anders Behring Breivik ended the lives of 77 boys and girls youth of the Nourego Labor Party on the island of Utoya. We have spoken with  Poppe in a telephone interview about his film, about the role of the victims in the film and about the current drift of the extreme right in the western countries.

What led you to notice the terrorist attacks that shook Norway in 2011?

Erik Poppe- Many of the survivors and many of the families who lost their children felt that they had not been given enough attention. Because the victims were recommended to forget what had happened and look to the future, and I think that’s why people do not fully understand what happened on that island. There are many books, press articles, opinion articles about what happened in Utoya, about what happened during the trial of the terrorist, about his personality, but all these years have not been written in depth about what happened on the island and about the victims.

The terrorist of the attacks of July 22, 2011 did what he did inspired by all the hate speech that circulates freely on the internet today. I really believed in all that shit and felt I had the mission of transforming those words into action.

A quick glance at any digital newspaper archive confirms this idea, that the media have not stopped publishing things about the terrorist and almost nothing about the victims.

Erik Poppe-  It is terrible that he be given more space. Another reason that led me to make the film related to that. The terrorist of the attacks of July 22, 2011 did what he did inspired by all the hate speech that circulates freely on the internet today. I really believed in all that shit and felt I had the mission of transforming those words into action.

The attacks in Norway happened in 2011 and the hate speech that is reported is increasingly present in public life.

Erik Poppe– The rhetoric of hatred is even reaching political institutions, parliaments and governing bodies. You detect it in the politics of Italy, Hungary, Sweden, in the United Kingdom … We felt it was important to teach the world where hate speech leads. Because remembering what happened we also show that this speech is dangerous. A united Europe is essential to defeat hate speech. What can we do so that the terror of Utoya does not happen again? What can we do to get these people from the far-right forums out of their toxic redoubts to debate with arguments? I’m not saying that the people who share these ideas are all terrorists, but unfortunately we have seen some cases that are alarming and that are the most terrible scale of certain political attacks. What happened in Utoya did not come out of nowhere. In ocasions they tell me that the movie has been done too soon, but I think, as the victims claim, it may be too late.

Sometimes they tell me that the movie has been made too soon, but I think, as the victims claim, it may be too late.

For this reason the killer hardly appears in ‘Utoya, July 22’?

Erik Poppe–  There are many films about massacres narrated from the point of view of terrorists, and I have the feeling that they are made to entertain the viewer. And that seems immoral to me. With Utoya, July 22, I wanted a movie that would provoke a reaction, that would impact and be difficult to see. We work side by side with the victims, because the objective is to question the spectator, to feel the anguish of those boys and girls. Because, I insist, we want people to reflect on what happened in Utoya so that it doesn’t happen again.

At its premiere at the Berlinale the film received not a few criticisms.

Erik Poppe-  There I was wrong, because the first version of the film did not contextualize the story. The press was very hard on me and after thinking about it I decided to add information about the attacks on the credits at the beginning and end of the film. But I was always clear that the tape is about the victims and from their point of view. Not showing the terrorist is, therefore, a deliberate decision. Notes his presence: you see his shadow and hear his shots, but always from the point of view of the guys who were on the island. By not teaching the murderer, a much stronger bond is built with the victims.

How was the reception of the film in your country and in the other countries in which it has been released?

Erik Poppe–  Throughout the world, the reactions have been very powerful and the spectators have felt a lot of empathy with what they have seen. Because unfortunately terror surrounds us. In the United States, they told me that this movie reminded them of massacres in institutes and media such as Indie Wire or The Washington Post wrote that it was the first time they had seen a film with such sensitivity when talking about the terror of violence. We live in a time when violence completely surrounds us: in the cinema, in the news, in literature … We assimilate it as if it were something normal without stopping to think about the consequences.