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False Belief
Regissør: Lene Berg
( Norge)

The Norwegian documentary premieres during this year's Berlin festival: A sensory-rich dissemination in Lene Berg's playful, wonder and disturbing False Belief.


A playful, amazing and very disturbing Norwegian documentary, False Belief, got into the prestigious Berlinale's new innovative program Forum Expanded last February. The fact that the film got its premiere just now, however, was not an obvious one. A hectic run with the completion of post production while using all the ingenuity to raise enough for final funding, was made possible thanks to the very experienced team players behind the film; story editor and producer Ingebjørg Torgersen, editor Zayne Amstrong, sound designer Svenn Jacobsen and director Mikael Damstuen Brkic. How tight the film produced via FABB001 has been about not being finalized is telling of the current support systems and distribution platform priorities. The feat is great, but is overshadowed by the appalling persecution revealed. The film is desperately looking for answers, but is capable of providing a slant at the surreally dangerous situation it describes.


This type of film is rarely cared for in all the aforementioned contexts. Also thematically it is of a unique burning importance. Filmmaker and renowned multi-artist Lene Berg's partner, the African-American publisher Mr. D, is accused and subsequently arrested, but for what? Already with the suggestive sound in the opening scenes, the documentary points to the connection with Harlem's gentrification process. An absurd nightmare is conveyed so sensuously via multifaceted and different artistic approaches that we get the feeling of sharing the protagonist's panic. What trap he has fallen into, and why, is among the film's central and profound issues.

False Belief is a playful, wondering and very disturbing Norwegian documentary.

This cinematic attempt at dissolution and interpretation fascinates. Mr. D.'s similarities to Kafka's character Jozef F i process does not limit itself to the name reference.

Cynical play

The experience of unreality and alienation in the face of a system that has its own rules without possible visibility is daunting. False Belief is a disturbing portrayal of a situation that persists. Through e-mail contact with the filmmaker, I find out that Mr. D.'s appeal is extremely difficult precisely because even the verdict in the case is based on such unclear charges and evidence that neither the couple themselves nor their defender has gained full access. The anonymity grip further points to other victims of similar wrongs, but at the same time protects the film's protagonist. If it had been known that the case was filmed, it could soon have escalated charges and prosecution according to the couple. This movie is also Mr. D.'s best defense, and the collage puzzle in the movie exposed the couple's own evidence. By making the film, they have found a way to express and clarify to themselves and others what cynical games they have been exposed to.


Proximity requires self-reflection

At times False Belief so intense that I gasp for breath. This, despite simple and undramatic means; Mr. D is trapped in a half-naked picture where only the colour of the monochrome background and his clothes change. In all outdoor scenes, we only see the couple's shadows move or are introduced through multiple photo collages. The handles recreate some of the enormous claustrophobia the couple's detention and false accusations have inflicted on them. In my head a graph appears with rising market prices on one axis, personal degradation and damage on the other, and a corrupt police and judicial system in the middle.

At times, False Belief is so intense that I gasp for breath.

The English word "framed" does not just mean to be hit, but just as much to be cheated on. Conscious camera angles and narrative formulations convey how, step by step, Mr. D was transformed into a threatening hate criminal. A doubt nags, isn't D guilty? Not in the charges, but in blindly relying on the system and the law that protects against abuse by corrupt officials. This all is followed by a cunning campaign and fabricated evidence. Nothing to worry about, most of us would think. I did nothing then and am confident. Are we really? The film shows the cracks in the foundation of legal certainty as capital forces expand. The documentary pain – our own recognition of D.'s credulity becomes challenging. Films are so much easier about the others, far out there in the front lines of the hard conflicts. The possibility of distancing mitigates the seriousness. The closeness of the story quickly demands self-reflection.



Through the film's first narrative voice, the director mentions that she believes in just being a bad dream – that she would like to wake up soon. Does the film crawl too tightly under our skin through our identification with an upstanding resourceful human being similar to you and me? I guess that's why it seems so annoying that Mr. D admits to the statement "faggot", knowing that he is thus creating evidence of his own criminalization. He himself emphasizes how the word "nigger" is something he and others without caucasian appearance must constantly endure. There are many paradoxes. The film illustrates how vulnerable groups are set up against each other: Blacks against gays. As a coincidental irony, the film reveals that Mr. D should first be accused of being a racist, but the Norwegian boyfriend led to the homophobia card being played. The flock or trap he has landed in seems impossible to get out of. D is one of countless examples. The grotesque methods of gentrification save no one, and market prices are skyrocketing.

The film will be shown during HUMAN 2020 in Oslo.

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

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