Theater of Cruelty

The offspring of nationalism

Miranda – A politician is created
Regissør: Mats Ågren

Meet the teenager who wants to take back a Sweden she is too young to have experienced – a Sweden that has never existed.


The cultural spotlight has been turning extra hard on the political right in recent years, and not without reason. In Mats Ågren's documentary, we meet the politically active fourteen-year-old Miranda, who is a member of the Nationalist Youth Party Sweden Democrats Youth Association (SDU) in Sölvesborg. It is in this village that the mother party of the Swedish Democrats (SD) has the greatest support in all of Sweden, which Miranda believes is simply a combination of the fact that the children here listen to their parents and that the party leader, himself Jimmie Åkesson, comes from there. What we get served is not just an insight into the life of a Swedish youth, but small drips from her family, friends, party traps and a village that everyone thinks it is immigrants which is blamed for virtually everything that is wrong with the country.

Insightful portrait. Miranda – A politician is created has certainly an interesting and important starting point. In the face of the right-wing populist forces that have become increasingly dominant in today's political reality, we ask ourselves, time and time again, the same question: How does the xenophobic and hateful man really arise?

The answer is simple and complex at the same time. The documentary shows simple people with simple needs in a world that is not always so simple. It is precisely in confrontation with this simplicity that the documentary becomes complex; the seemingly uniform surface around Miranda cackles as she is confronted by questions she cannot answer, views she cannot defend and a party in crisis. The portrait wins so many questions are allowed to remain unanswered. Director, photographer, editor and producer Mats Ågren makes no moral judgments on the viewer's behalf, and therein lies much of the quality of the documentary. The simplification strategies that the right-wing populists have relied on to gain a high level of support are a pitfall that every serious filmmaker must steer clear of. For the simple is never quite as simple as one thinks.

The simplifications that right-wing populists need to gain support are a pitfall that every serious filmmaker must steer clear of.

Take the situation at home, for example. Miranda's mother is a hopeless nostalgic who misses the "real" Sweden she grew up in. According to her, immigration is not a result of the world changing, but the world is different because of all the immigrants. A lot of discussion arises between her and her British husband, who speaks a witty mix of English and broken Swedish – 23 years after he arrived in the country. He thinks the difference between the two is that he is only a bit racist, while she is completely there. Because he actually feels sorry for some of the immigrants, he tells us when his wife is not present. Miranda herself struggles to see parallels between her father's status as an immigrant and the immigrants she does not want in Sweden. The situation may lead to the United States, a country built by immigrants, now led by a man who wants to stop immigration despite the fact that his own wife is not born American. For some, this seems logically coherent, for others it borders on surrealism.

Heredity and environment. The dynamics that arise in the home because of the father's position in the political discussion show that almost nowhere or sizes – not even the nuclear family itself – are completely homogeneous. Eventually, a far more serious dispute arises between SD and SDU, without my having to reveal the consequences this will have. The overall theme is that complete harmony does not exist, nor can it be created. The many helicopter images of Sölvesborg depict the place in miniature, alternating ambivalent between the peaceful neighborhoods and the frost-white fields. Rather than the desire for the restoration of a lost Swedish golden age, these metaphors point to the fact that it is xenophobia and doomedness that keep this population together.

Equally ambiguous is portrayed by Miranda herself: Friends and family praise her in the clouds as a capable and forward-thinking young woman with guaranteed place in the Swedish Parliament when she grows up – yes, she may well be the one to take over after Jimmie Åkesson in the party leadership, the mother thinks. But at the same time, the film paints a completely different portrait of the young girl; this is by no means a bastard and charismatic figure that goes in front of the party or fights with opponents. Miranda is withdrawn, awaiting and hesitant every time she has the opportunity to speak. She has no qualms about the aggressive traits that could develop her into a leader like Marine Le Pen or Geert Wilders, which is why it becomes difficult to judge her.

Miranda has none of the aggressive traits that could make her a Le Pen or a Wilders.

Miranda is so young. She has never known anything but her own confined environment, and it seems problematic to have to hold her accountable for attitudes that may not be entirely her own. It would not be surprising at all if she one day changed her views quite so radically.

Perhaps the political commitment of this schoolgirl teenager is simply an extension of her general duty of accomplishment and achievement of life. She is no different from a Norwegian fourteen-year-old who gets five in all subjects and attends R&D meetings in her spare time. Although the attitudes prevailing in her hometown are clearly more extreme, it is not Miranda's fault that she has grown up in this environment. But she bites her lip when she criticizes the school and at the same time points out that most of the knowledge she has learned about the world through SDU. What we can't know yet is the extent to which her attitudes will change as she grows up, whether she keeps on moving to Sölvesborg, whether she gets her views challenged and develops her own moral compass.

Although none of the Swedish Democrats' ideological opponents are allowed to speak in this short documentary, it is as if its artistic form forms an ideological antithesis to the political content. For where politicians claim to have the universal truth and the undeniable facts, the film admits that the only thing it can do is look for the right questions.

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