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An investigative contemporary image of July 22

The legacy of July 22
Regissør: Tommy Gulliksen
(Norge, 2021)

JULY 22ND / Tommy Gulliksen's second documentary about July 22 shows a vulnerability that is both reflective, wondering and sincerely honest.


The estimate in Tommy Gulliksen's The legacy of July 22 is strong: We see Eskil Pedersen's speech elated to the Utøya youth on 20 July 2011 – the stylish new AUF leader enjoys the welcome and sight of the many who are at summer camp. This sequel to Gulliksen's award-winning Utøya documentary A small island in the world (2012) are both inviting, thought-provoking and precise.

The legacy of July 22 takes time to tell what the rest of us know: that all the young people on Utøya will soon experience hell, that 69 of them will die and many will be injured. For life, they will have traumatic memories.

The film emphasizes the trauma – but also how quickly people got tired of hearing about July 22nd. At the same time, the film takes it a step further, and allows us to be with the survivors in the retrospective investigative meeting with whom they themselves were right after July 22nd. It is an unpleasant but innovative perspective on the legacy of July 22.

While writing the film review, I meet one of those who were among the first to receive the young people who got away from Utøya. Ten years have passed, but few of the experiences have been shared before. Even the visual memories are kept strictly at a distance. She says that the shooting was completely incomprehensible at first. Likewise, the extent of injuries to young people. In a low voice, she suggests a thigh splintered by a bullet, shouts for siblings and friends. Two young people died there on the beach.

I watch the movie, sitting in silence.

If you investigate, it turns out that Fritt Ord has given 87 awards that have been earmarked for July 22 – for film, theater, books and more. NRK and Netflix have also invested heavily in dramatizations that have engaged a wide audience. As a critic, I have written about several of these – and it became more difficult than easier for each of them. Much is due to the fact that many are misled, but not accomplished. They are often groping, saturated with clichés and tensions, and quickly deviate from the authentic. Gulliksen stands out here with a clearer story and a message that dares to bite off:

He boldly stretches the timeline backwards and shows right-wing extremist episodes of violence from 1979 until today. The documentary brings out brutal news footage from, among other things, Kyvik's bombing of the May 1 train (1979), the bombing of the Nor Mosque at Frogner (1985), Arne Myrdal's planned bombing of the asylum reception in Brumunddal, the murder of Benjamin Hermansen and more. With her in the film's research, Gulliksen has had Anne Marte Blindheim. Their insight into right-wing extremist circles over time, but also their commitment, means that these clips do not seem foreign or perceived as wild, but fit into the film's investigative agenda.

However, the film does not want to reminisce – it rather in the future, gathers in an exploratory contemporary image. Seamlessly, the story is shaped by the duo's solid journalistic experience and embraces large, complex and with spikes.

The familiar story of Norway is being challenged. Gulliksen uses the pain from both the theme and the process – he dares to go further. As a director, he shapes the creative more organically and more courageously than in the previous documentary. The register voice has a critical and inquisitive eye. The legacy of July 22 is complex but at the same time flexible. Likewise what is told from the day of terror.

Editor Thomas Waitz Knutsen, according to Gulliksen, had to go many rounds alone with the material first.

Back in the studio

The film uses a simple and at the same time powerful grip. It takes back three main characters in the same type of room as in A small island in the world – where they were interviewed immediately after the terrorist attack on July 22, ten years earlier. With this, the film opens up for a vulnerability that is both reflective, wondering and sincerely honest.

In the sequence with Eskil Pedersen it hurts. The provocation against him represents the provocation that (as the film tells) affected a third of all the survivors. The AUF leader was an easy prey as a queer, as he was also one of the first to escape the scene of violence. He received a phone call telling him to run straight to the boat – afterwards he was told that he was a chosen target. Many called him a coward and thought he should have stayed on the island. While watching footage of himself from the first documentary, he slowly conveys that he had no choice.

The main characters share a screen with themselves from only weeks after the terrorist attack. They meet themselves as younger. The dignified and respectfully depressing expression from 2011 is contrasted with a present with close and free contact between director and main characters. This warm tone soothes the bitterness of the story.

Lara Rashid puts it this way: "I feel we know each other so well that it's hard to be serious." But the seriousness and the clearly sharpened focus never deviate from this story. Lara says that as a survivor she felt responsible for responding with love, not expressing anger or "throwing shoes" at Breivik, but rather write a column that they should not be angry.

Lara is both a survivor and a survivor. She lost her big sister Bano on Utøya and has felt the consequences of keeping the rage inside. Now she is debuting with a book to highlight the perspective as an immigrant, asylum seeker and woman – something she believes did not come out well enough in Brevik's attack on multiculturalism.

The film shows a contemporary demonstration against SIAN in front of the Storting where Line Oma, a survivor of the bombing of the government building, claps rhythmically with others. We got to know her in the previous documentary: a vibrant girl from the district who wanted to rise in the ranks of politics and get to the top of the high-rise. She tells thoughtfully about the escape from the government building ten years ago, about how she had to step over broken portraits of former party leaders to get to safety.

The Norwegian self-image

In the documentary, Gulliksen has expertly alternated between the socio-political account of 22 July and three survivors – as he has followed them closely – and sees where they are ten years later. He portrays them as whole people. They tell about the experience of rose train and unity, with pride in how well Norway coped with this trauma – but also about everything that constantly smoldered beneath the surface.

Tommy Gulliksen

Gulliksen pokes at another pain in the ass: The processing of the worst crime on Norwegian soil since World War II quickly became a mastery exercise one should prove to be the best at – Norway should be a winner in trauma management regardless of price. Using audio side and cutting sequences, Gulliksen creates a more epic account and delivers a biting post in the debate. The musical collaboration with Amanda Delara and her rewriting of Norwegian classics gives the film a contemporary sound side that captures (also for a younger audience) and sets it apart from most other documentaries.


Ellen Lande
Ellen Lande
Lande is a film writer and director and a regular writer for Ny Tid.

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