A planned film documentary will recreate the massacre on the Norwegian island of Utøya that killed 69 mostly young Labour Party summer campers in 2011. Several survivors of the massacre are taking part in the documentary, which has secured a nod from the national survivors’ support organization.
It’s been nearly five years since the horrors of a cold and rainy summer afternoon on July 22, 2011. A lone, ultra-right-wing and anti-immigration Norwegian man had already bombed Norway’s government headquarters in Oslo, killing eight people. Then he drove to the ferry landing for Utøya, the island in the Tyri Fjord that for decades has been the summer camp location for the Labour Party’s youth organization AUF.
The gunman blamed the Labour Party for allowing too many immigrants into Norway, and in the course of just under two hours, he roamed the small island with his loaded weapons and gunned down as many of the party’s next generation as he could. The vast majority of his victims were teenagers, who found there was hardly anyplace to run and hide.
‘Survivors’ own story’
Now the Northern Norwegian film production company Jabfilm is involved in the Nordic project that has secured the cooperation of around 10 survivors. “This is a story from the survivors, and at the same time, a demand that it’s those who experienced Utøya who own that story,” producer John Arvid Berger of Jabfilm told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “This film is about giving them the opportunity to take the island back. We are very glad that everyone we asked to participate in the film said ‘yes.'”
Entitled Reconstructing Utøya, the documentary is being directed by Carl Javér of Sweden and has a budget of around NOK 6 million (USD 723,000). Several foreign film distributors have expressed interest in the documentary, which also involves a Swedish production company. Berger is prepared for reaction about a film reconstruction of the massacre on Utøya, but he thinks the film is necessary.
“It’s about what we should remember from July 22,” Javér said. “There’s been a lot of attention on the gunman and his prison conditions, which is now dominating the memories. It’s important to remember what actually happened, that a man wanted to kill these young people.”
Filming to begin this fall
The Nordic filmmakers have already filmed a pilot with some of the Utøya survivors. If all pre-production details come together, including full financing, filming will start at FilmCam in Målselv, Troms County, this fall.
Berger notes that the bombing and massacre five years ago amounted to a national trauma. “We have opted not to film on Utøya itself, to create a certain distance,” he told NRK. “We braced for some reaction, and that the film may hurt some people. It’s a difficult theme, but we hope the film will contribute to the healing of all Norwegians.”
Psychologists will be on hand during the filming to support those involved, and Berger said the project team has had close dialogue with the national support group, which has been positive about the project. Lisbeth Røyneland, who leads the group and lost a daughter on Utøya, said she thinks it’s a fine project, based on and adhering to the terms of the young survivors.
“That’s what I can say now,” Røyneland told NRK. “I can’t comment on the film further until I’ve seen it.”