Reviewed by: Michael Pattison

Kari Anne Moe’s Bravehearts (Til Ungdommen), a documentary about four teenage representatives of Norway’s political youth parties, is a fascinating example of a film responding to and shaped by real-world events. Embarking upon a character-rich project driven by the contrasting peculiarities of her central quartet, Moe’s film took a sharp detour when, on 22 July 2011, right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik murdered 77 people with a bomb attack in Oslo and a gun attack at a summer camp, run by the Workers Youth Party, on the island of Utøya.

One of Moe’s subjects, Johanne Butehnschøn Lindheim, was on Utøya as a camp participant when the massacre was carried out. Occurring 45 or so minutes into the film, it unavoidably overshadows the remainder, as Johanne and others share their experiences of both the incident itself and its aftermath.

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Alongside Johanne, Bravehearts follows Socialist Youth representative Sana El Morabit, Progress Party Youth member Henrik Wangberg and Conservative Youth member Haakon K. Veum. Moe – who has herself been an active youth politician, in both Socialist Youth and Youth Against the EU – interweaves footage of her subjects talking direct to camera, at home with their families, sharing anxieties and, most notably, practising their debating skills for upcoming political rallies. Without intervening upon their contrasting outlooks, Moe relies on her young protagonists to voice their own beliefs, and on any fallacies in such views to be self-apparent. The film is an account not only of the esteem with which Norway’s youth politics is viewed, but also of the specific pressures – and opportunities – adolescents face in an intellectual and political arena.

Before the terrorist attack changed the course of her film, Moe may have already had her title in mind. The director presumably views a teenager’s conscious subscription to a political viewpoint – even a right-wing one – as being of inherent import, and her respect for political activity regardless of its overall leaning shines through.

Consequently, if she doesn’t agree with everything her protagonists say, the director refrains from grilling them herself. This, of course, brings limitations. Chief among them is the lack of context that might account for why an otherwise articulate lad like Henrik is attending conservative rallies by Norway’s Progress Party, or for how an appreciably confused boy like Haakon came to join the Conservative Youth.

Nobody wants to knock a teen’s confidence, of course, but the intellectually deficient climate in which a racist political party flourishes needs to be challenged. In this viewer at least, the question sparked by Moe’s respectful sheen was whether a politically unconscious youth is any worse than one who actively subscribes to a party with fascistic tendencies, overt or otherwise. Similarly, though the social merits of participating in a political debate are apparent, watching a sensitive and enthusiastic teenager like Sana become frustrated by the hands-up-to-speak format of such platforms makes one question the parliamentary framework as a whole, especially when (as is suggested in the film) Leftist logic is met time and again by the infuriatingly evasive and ad hominem strategies of the right.

Though Moe elegantly and tactfully remains focused upon her protagonists after the Breivik attacks, the specific trauma of the latter inevitably overwhelms proceedings. In fact, more insidious than the film’s non-interventionist approach to its proudly right-wing youths is its suggestion that unthinkable acts of violence somehow transcend politics itself. This is distinctly not the case: Breivik’s attack had political foundations, and to use it as a facile argument for why We Should All Just Get Along is frankly dangerous.

Reviewed on: 01 Oct 2013
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A documentary following the lives and thinking of four politically active young Norwegians before and after the massacre on Utøya Island.

Director: Kari Anne Moe

Year: 2012

Runtime: 118 minutes

Country: Norway


Doc/Fest 2013

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