Norwegian filmmaker Kari Anne Moe’s second feature-length documentary, “Rebels” centers around 24-year-old Jan Olav. Growing up with dyslexia, Olav has spent years struggling in school and fighting with teachers. In her film, Moe sheds light on the flaws and opportunities in education, the importance of mentors and the ability for students to overcome challenges when treated as a valuable individual instead of a lost cause. Moe’s film won a special mention Wednesday night in the Audience Award category at Norway’s Haugesund Festival.
How did you find your subjects?
I started to follow this particular class, and the first week I did interviews with all 22 of the young people. Then I could feel who went straight to my heart. I needed to feel a personal engagement and an emotional connection to the characters. And after doing those interviews I knew I had a star because this guy went straight through the camera lens. And every time I wanted to film something about somebody else, the scene ended up being about him anyway. He was a clear choice from the beginning.
What makes him so compelling?
His feelings are so on the outside, so you can actually see what is going on inside. I felt that instant connection. He can’t read, he can’t write after eleven years of schooling. And when he was still a child but soon to be a teenager, he just found out ‘I can be a gangster. That’s something I can manage.’ We all need to be something. We all need to feel like we are capable of something.
What is this film about for you?
For me, it’s a film about how important it is to be seen as not just some label in a field of problems. I think we need someone … everyone is seeing themselves in other people. And how you are looked upon as a young person, and how you are defined and described, it’s so vulnerable in those years. If you are pointed out as a troubled kid, then it’s going to be really hard to get out of that label.
Who were your mentors?
I think everyone can think about a few people who have made a difference. For me, I think definitely my mom. Everything I did was fantastic (laughs) and some people would think that it’s over the top, but I don’t think so. It’s a great thing to bring with you because there are a lot of critics in the world, and it’s a good thing to have parents that really give you a lot of encouragement.
What else would you like to add?
I think that in the U.S. people are actually more trained to point out good qualities. I think that’s a good thing. In Europe, we say: ‘Oh, they’re just superficial.’ You know what? I’d really prefer superficial nice people instead of honest sour people. (laughs) But it’s a big problem now that a lot of people aren’t finishing school. So I hope that we can maybe move the focus about school. Because I think you need to have a school that can prepare you for life, and not just for the next test.