Thousands protest new film on Utøya

Bookmark and Share

More than 20,000 people have signed a campaign on social media against a new film based on a Norwegian right-wing extremist’s massacre on the island of Utøya seven years ago. They claim it’s too early since the attack that killed 69 people, mostly young members of Norway’s Labour Party, and that it will give the mass murderer renewed publicity.

Norway’s former prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, made a solitary trip back to the island of Utøya a year after it was the scene of a massacre carried out by a lone gunman on July 22, 2011. A film now in production about the attack on Stoltenberg’s Labour Party is raising concerns and drawing criticism. PHOTO: Statsministererns kontor

Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Wednesday that in addition to those supporting the campaign on Facebook entitled Nei til film om Anders Behring Breivik! (“No to a film” about the right-wing terrorist), another 50,000 had shared the campaign as of Tuesday evening.

Newspaper VG reports that the campaign was launched by Vegard Løkken, a resident of Oppland County who is also calling for a boycott against the film’s producer Netflix. Løkken fears the film will generate too much publicity for Breivik, who also bombed Norway’s government headquarters before unleashing his massacre on Utøya because he blamed the Labour-led government at the time for allowing too many immigrants into Norway.

“It’s much too early to make a film about him, the wounds are still too fresh,” Løkken told VG. “This will hit those involved (Breivik’s victims) hard.”

State support
The film, which has secured NOK 17 million in state funding from Norway’s film incentive fund, has also been criticized by some victims’ families while the head of Labour’s youth organization has also said he thinks it’s too early for a film on the massacre. Løkken mostly doesn’t want Breivik, who reportedly has inspired other right-wing extremists, to get any more attention.

“We have already spent multiple millions of tax money on that jerk already,” Løkken told VG. “Now he’ll get more PR and can enjoy seeing his name become even better known.”

Aftenposten reported that Netflix wouldn’t comment on either its production of the film or the campaign against it. Netflix would only state that it has been in contact with Norway’s national support group for July 22 victims and their families during the course of developing the film. The support group didn’t want to comment on the film either.

Details unclear
The film is based on Norwegian author Åsne Seierstad’s book En av oss (One of us), which profiled Norway’s home-grown terrorist but also several of his victims and covered the court case that followed the July 22 attacks. The film is entitled simply Norway, and Netflix earlier has stated that it will feature three stories tied to the events of July 22: Survivors and how they rebuilt their lives, former Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (now secretary general of NATO) and other Norwegian politicians who led Norway through the crisis, and lawyers involved in the court case that was aimed at giving Breivik a fair trial. They include Geir Lippestad, who defended Breivik and is now a top politician for Labour in Oslo’s city government.

That indicates the film will be more about the aftermath of the attacks, which can also explain its title. Director Paul Greengrass told newspaper Dagbladet when he was in Norway in September that it was “important” for him and his crew to make the film in a “respectful and correct” manner. He said he hoped there would be understanding that they released the fewest possible details about the film during production.

Filming underway amidst complaints
When filming began recently in the community of Nøtterøy, local officials complained that they weren’t informed until it was about to begin. The film location is an island owned and managed by the Norwegian military, and thus outside local jurisdiction.

“If I’d received an inquiry earlier, I would have asked them (the producers) to do their filming on a Swedish island, or somewhere else,” Nøtterøy’s top administrative official, Toril Eeg, told Dagbladet at the end of October.

Eeg, who carries the title of rådmann, said the production company wrote in an email that filming would be discreet, that they were aware of the project’s sensitivity and that they had contacted the victims’ and families’ support group. “I was caught off guard, but felt obliged to just accept it,” Eeg said.

Since details about the film remain unclear, Løkken can’t be sure either that the film will give Breivik more publicity. “No,” he acknowledged to VG, “but it’s about July 22 and then you can’t avoid him.” He doesn’t think any film should be made for another 40 to 50 years: “Then all the facts should be on the table, the families would have had time to collect themselves. If a film has to be made, it shouldn’t be until (Breivik) is dead. Now his name will just become better known.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund