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Filming the unfilmable: U-July 22 and Norway’s Utøya Massacre

U-July 22 puts us right in the middle of the Utøya Massacre via one girl’s fight to survive

On 22 July 2011, more than 500 youths at a political summer camp on an island outside Oslo were attacked by an armed, right-wing extremist. Earlier that day he bombed a Government building in Oslo, before making his way to Utøya island. In Erik Poppe’s U – July 22, the first fictional movie about the attack, we get to know Kaja (Andrea Berntzen) and her friends. The movie starts when the youngsters, shocked by the bombing in Oslo, are reassuring their relatives that they are far away from the incident. Suddenly, the safe atmosphere is shattered when shots are heard. We then follow Kaja as she tries to survive – minute by minute.

Debutante Andrea Berntzen as 18-year-old Kaja, the film’s main protagonist

“How they experienced this terror attack is hard to describe in words”,  explains Poppe, one of Norway’s most celebrated film directors, “My hope is that the movie can help us understand and show even more compassion for those whothrough fate and coincidence were caught up in the chaos when evil struck”U – July 22 is written from testimonies and known facts, and created in close dialogue with several survivors. But out of respect for the victims and their relatives, characters and individual experiences are fictitious.

The Norwegian director Erik Poppe.

Much of what has been written and said in the media has been about the manifesto of the terrorist, the judgment and the sentence. With U – July 22 director Erik Poppe wanted to describe the youths’ struggle to survive the incomprehensible, and bring attention back to the victims – those who died, those who survived, and the friends and families of both.

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