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Erik Poppe to helm a film on the 2011 Utøya massacre


- After his WW2 blockbuster The King’s Choice, the Norwegian director will depict Anders Behring Breivik’s 22 July 2011 shooting on the island of Utøya

Erik Poppe to helm a film on the 2011 Utøya massacre
Director Erik Poppe

Norwegian director Erik Poppe, whose World War II blockbuster The King’s Choice [+see also:
film review
interview: Erik Poppe
film profile
 has been nominated for a record number of 12 Amandas – Norway’s national film prize – will focus on a more recent historical event, the 22 July 2011 terror attack on the island of Utøya, in his new film U - July 22 [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Erik Poppe
film profile
, which will start principal photography on 5 September.

Thirty-two-year-old Norwegian right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik arrived at Utøya, in the Tyrifjorden lake, on the Thorbjørn ferry, and at 17:22 he began shooting at people while shouting and cheering. By the time he was arrested by police at 18:27, 69 participants in the Norwegian Labour Party youth association’s summer camp were dead, with 66 injured; he was later sentenced to the maximum 21 years in custody for terror offences.

“Twelve minutes before the first shot is fired on Utøya, we meet 18-year-old Kaja, her younger sister and their friends at the summer camp – they are all strongly concerned about what has just happened in Oslo. Then the sense of idyll and security is shattered, and people panic for the next 72 minutes; we follow Kaja on her efforts to escape, minute by minute – she loses her sister, and while trying to find her, she comes across other young people with different strategies to survive. Some do, some don’t,” the synopsis explains. 

Staged on a €2.8 million budget by Norwegian producers Finn Gjerdrum and Stein B Kvae for Paradox Rettigheter, Poppe and his screenwriters Siv Rajendram Eliassen and Anna Bache-Wiig have been working on the project for two years, creating fictional characters for the events on Utøya, with mainly unknown or non-professional actors in the leads, in order to make the film more realistic. The Norwegian Film Institute has chipped in €0.6 million for the film, which will describe the events from the perspective of the young summer campers.

“The film is based on in-depth interviews with survivors and will try to identify the feelings and dilemmas among the young people on Utøya as directly as possible, showing how they took care of each other in a situation where it was difficult to maintain their grip. Some of them will participate in the filming behind the camera to contribute to the credibility of the story, so it will recreate the drama as it happened,” Poppe and his colleagues explained to the film institute.

The filmmaker’s The King’s Choice took 713,276 admissions in local cinemas in 2016, to become number one in the box-office charts. Currently being considered for Amanda Awards in 11 categories, including Best Film, Screenplay and Director, and with two nods in the Best Supporting Actor category (the trophies will be awarded on 19 August during the Norwegian International Film Festival in Haugesund), the historical epic screened in the Berlin International Film Festival’s Panorama programme and was named Best Norwegian Film of 2016 by the Norwegian Film Critics’ Association.

A Swedish feature on Breivik’s 2011 terror shooting is also in the making, not only incorporating the Utøya killings, but also the attack earlier in the day in Oslo, where, dressed in a fake police uniform, Breivik detonated a 950 kg bomb in front of the Ministry of Justice and Police, leaving seven people dead and more than 15 wounded (see the news). Following five Utøya survivors, who will talk about their experiences, describe how they got out alive and bring memories back by directing a group of 12 youngsters, Reconstructing Utøya will be directed by Swedish director Carl Javér and staged by Vilda Bomben producer Fredrik Lange. Norway’s Polarfox will co-produce.

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