×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

We Shall Overcome

A 13-year-old boy defies an abusive school principal in 1960s-set, social-issues drama "We Shall Overcome," the third feature from Danish helmer Niels Arden Oplev. Well-turned perfs and trim direction elevate what might have been merely average fodder. "Overcome" has a feel-good factor that can win hearts and minds on the fest circuit.

With:
With: Bent Mejding, Janus Dissing Rathke, Anders W. Berthelsen, Jens Jorn Spottag, Anne-Grethe Bjarup Riis, Peter Hesse Overgaard, Sarah Juel Werner. (Danish dialogue)

A 13-year-old boy (Janus Dissing Rathke) defies an abusive school principal (Bent Mejding) in 1960s-set, social-issues drama “We Shall Overcome,” the third feature from Danish helmer Niels Arden Oplev (“Chop Chop,” “Portland”). Although plot runs along predictable lines, well-turned perfs and trim direction elevate what might have been merely average fodder. A prize winner at the recent Gothenburg fest, “Overcome” has a feel-good factor that can win hearts and minds on the fest circuit and secure some theatrical bookings, but isn’t sufficiently revolutionary to conquer farther flung territories.

Adolescent Frits (charismatic Dissing Rathke, making a promising debut) arrives at the family farm one day in 1969 to find his father Peder (Jens Jorn Spottag) cowering behind the kitchen table, suffering from clinical depression. After Peder is packed off to the funny farm, Frits’ mother Stine (Anne-Grethe Bjarup Riis) buys the family their first TV, from which Frits learns all about the recently assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Frits soon begins middle school, but his longish hair quickly draws the ire of principal Lindum-Svendsen (Mejding, “Brothers”), a slap-happy martinet who regularly beats pupils in his office. After Frits is lured into spying on the girls’ changing room, Lindum-Svendsen twists his ear so hard, the boy requires stitches to have it reattached.

Kindly, quasi-hippie teacher Freddie Svale (topliner Anders W. Berthelsen, in a supporting role for a change) takes him to the doctor and offers moral support, but he seems to be the only school employee willing to support Frits and his family’s fight for justice.

Peder comes back from the hospital and joins Frits in a campaign to get the school board to take the abuse charges seriously. Frits starts wearing his hair in a Mohawk and, inspired by King’s example, practices nonviolent resistance at school. He and his family gradually win over key supporters, including pretty classmate Iben (Sarah Juel Werner).

Screenplay by Oplev and Steen Bille tightly braids together the various subplots. Although considerably softer in tone and topic than the violent, nihilistic pics helmer Oplev cut his teeth on, “Overcome” remains grittier than the average tween pic, but still recognizably mainstream and family-viewing friendly.

Grainy texture is added by use of 16mm stock by lenser Lars Vestergaard, although lighting schemes favor a sunny look that suggests a never-ending summer. Period rendering is fair, perhaps a little too obvious in its use of Jimi Hendrix posters to indicate time frame, but generally convincing.

We Shall Overcome

Denmark-U.K.

Production: A Zentropa Entertainments11 (Denmark) production, in association with Naoz, Sigma III Films (U.K.), TV 2/Denmark, Adam Price & Camilla Hammerich Filmfyn, Erik Crone, with the support of the Danish Film Institute, Nordic Film & TV Fund, Nordisk Film. (International sales: Trust Film Sales, Copenhagen.) Produced by Sisse Graum Jorgensen. Executive producers, Peter Aalbaek Jensen, Peter Garde. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev. Screenplay, Oplev, Steen Bille.

Crew: Camera (color, 16mm-to-35mm), Lars Vestergaard; editor, Soren B. Ebbe; music, Jacob Groth; production designer, Soren Skjaer; costume designer, Manon Rasmussen; sound (Dolby SRD), Peter Schultz. Reviewed at Gothenburg Film Festival (competing), Feb. 2, 2006. (Also in Berlin Film Festival -- market.) Running time: 106 MIN.

With: With: Bent Mejding, Janus Dissing Rathke, Anders W. Berthelsen, Jens Jorn Spottag, Anne-Grethe Bjarup Riis, Peter Hesse Overgaard, Sarah Juel Werner. (Danish dialogue)

More Film

  • Critics Week

    Cannes Critics’ Week Unveils Its Lineup

    Lorcan Finnegan’s science-fiction thriller “Vivarium” with Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots, Jérémy Clapin’s fantasy-filled animated feature “I Lost My Body,” and Hlynur Pálmason’s Icelandic drama “A White, White Day” are among the 11 films set to compete at Critics’ Week, the section dedicated to first and second films that runs parallel with the Cannes Film [...]

  • China Box Office: 'Wonder Park' Fails

    China Box Office: 'Wonder Park' Fails to Impress While 'P Storm' Rages On

    Even on one of the quietest weekends of the year, new U.S. animated release “Wonder Park” failed to inspire Chinese audiences as much as Hong Kong and Indian movies already in their third weekend in theaters. Starring the voice talents of Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Garner, Mila Kunis, and Ken Jeong, among many others, the film [...]

  • David Picker dead

    David Picker, Studio Chief Who Acquired James Bond Novels for UA, Dies at 87

    David Picker, who headed United Artists, Paramount and Columbia’s motion picture divisions and was known for forging relationships with groundbreaking filmmakers and material, died Saturday in New York. He was 87 and had been suffering from colon cancer. MGM tweeted, “We are saddened to hear that a member of the United Artists family has passed [...]

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Bob Iger's $65 Million Compensation 'Insane'

    Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger’s total compensation for Disney’s fiscal 2018 was a whopping $65.6 million. Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Disney co-founder Roy Disney, calls that sum “insane.”  While speaking at the Fast Company Impact Council, the filmmaker and philanthropist insisted that this level of corporate payout has a “corrosive effect on society.” Disney took [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International

    'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International Box Office With $30 Million

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” led the way at the international box office, summoning $30 million when it opened in 71 foreign markets. The supernatural thriller collected $26.5 million in North America for a global start of $56.5 million. “La Llorona,” based on the Mexican folklore about the Weeping Woman, [...]

  • Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona'

    Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona' Wins Worst Easter Weekend in Over a Decade

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” ascended to the top of domestic box office charts, conjuring $26.5 million when it opened in 3,372 North American theaters. “La Llorona” is the latest horror movie to outperform expectations, further cementing the genre as one of the most reliable box office draws. Even so, [...]

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content