Terrorists — The Kids They Sentenced

A highly polemical and subjective documentary about violent clashes between police and demonstrators in Gothenburg during an annual summit of EU leaders in June 2001, "Terrorists" aims primarily to give a voice to those sentenced to long jail terms.

A highly polemical and subjective documentary about violent clashes between police and demonstrators in Gothenburg during an annual summit of EU leaders in June 2001, “Terrorists” aims primarily to give a voice to those sentenced to long jail terms. Pic’s main audience will be in Sweden, where the background is familiar, but the names of helmers Lukas Moodysson and Stefan Jarl look likely to secure pic some slots on the fest circuit. Film opened locally on a handful of small screens June 27 to major debate in the Swedish media.

Tens of thousands of protesters — made up of anti-globalization activists, anarchist groups and various leftists — gathered in Gothenburg, and the resulting clashes between police and demonstrators were Sweden’s angriest ever. The event caused a deep wound in Swedish society, which isn’t used to such violent street clashes, and the debate about what exactly happened still rages.

U.S. prez George W. Bush also visited for a day, so security was high from the start. Gothenburg’s police force was beefed up by hundreds from other parts of Sweden, and the elite National Security Force was put on standby. A couple of demonstrators were shot, and one nearly died. The city’s main street became a battlefield in which stores were looted and cars set on fire. In the aftermath, 60 protesters were sentenced to long jail terms.

The police have been accused of fabricating evidence against some of those put on trial, and the police chief in charge is to stand trial later this year for alleged misconduct. However, most people agree the first sentences were extremely harsh, especially compared with those for more serious crimes. Indeed, most sentences were later overturned by higher courts and reduced.

Moodysson and Jarl, whose sympathies clearly lie with the demonstrators, feel the only ones who have been heard in the debate so far are the police and politicians. As a result, the helmers interview a handful of protesters who were sentenced, but no one on the other side.

Film starts with a series of newsreel images, depicting starving children, people being shot, bodies that have been shot to pieces, marching soldiers, cruel experiments on rats, etc. It’s a none-too-subtle way of stating the helmers’ message that, compared with these injustices, some broken windows and thrown stones are nothing.

Pic then moves to the interviewees, who talk about why they went to Gothenburg, where their interest in politics started, how they want their dream society to look, what their thoughts are on using violence, etc. It’s a mixture of the naive and the politically thought-through: how viewers react will naturally reflect their own opinions.

However, neither Jarl nor Moodysson is a particularly skilled interviewer, and the film would benefit from the elimination of shots of the two asking questions. It’s especially irritating to hear them sometimes giggling in the background.

Most of the film consists of people talking, now and then intercut with newsreel photos from the riots. Little is said of the background to the events: if the film is to be shown outside Sweden, more info is vital, ideally in the form of a prologue. Even for a Swedish audience, backgrounding is sparse.

All interviews were shot on DV, with the material blown up to 35mm. Technical quality is OK, considering the circumstances.

Terrorists -- The Kids They Sentenced

Docu - Sweden

Production: A Folkets Bio release of a Stefan Jarl/Moodysson & Moodysson production. (International sales: Folkets Bio, Stockholm.) Produced by Stefan Jarl, Lukas Moodysson. Directed by Stefan Jarl, Lukas Moodysson.

Crew: Camera (color), Joakim Jalin; editors, Jarl, Jalin; music, Bob Hund; sound (Dolby), Per Carleson; research, Viktoria Lindstrom. Reviewed at Zita, Stockholm, June 23, 2003. Running time: 85 MIN.

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