22 July 2011, a far-right terrorist kills 69 teenagers reunited for a Workers’ Youth League summer camp on the island of Utøya. A violent event that traumatized the Norwegian society. From this trauma, Reconstructing Utøya, along with other movies about the event (22 July, Utøya: July 22), attempts to express those painful memories with images. Directed by Carl Javér, the documentary follows four survivors of the attack, Rakel, Mohammed, Jenny and Torje. Each, in turn, recreates, on a theater stage, what they endured the day of the attack. With white adhesive tape and the help of twelve actors, they take possession of the stage and become somehow producers. If I had to choose four words to describe this documentary, here are the four words I would pick.

Intensity is the first word I choose to describe how I felt all along the documentary. The pressure created by the shooting sounds makes the atmosphere of the movie stressful but also real. Intensity is also present when the survivors describe, with tears in their eyes or a lump in their throat, what happened to them the day of the attack and how they felt.

Bravery is the word I choose to describe the four survivors who share their experience. The documentary shows the difficulty for them to recreate and to experience again what has dramatically marked them. But all along the process of creation, they don’t give up. It’s even a way for them to sort of take back the control of the event.

What strikes most about this documentary is how fast the actors and the four survivors become close to each other, as if performing the scene enabled the actors to understand the survivors. It’s like a connection is instantly created between them. Onstage, the actors need few explanations to recreate the scene and capture the emotions of the day of the attack. The final scene when they all dance together illustrates this bond that links the members of the group.

My final word is hope. The documentary wants to share a message of hope and that we can recover and heal from traumatic events. It shows how the four victims have succeeded to recover. They even share the different things that made them happy on the day of the event seeing a boyfriend alive through the bus window or the call of a mom relieved to hear her son’s voice or simply the fact of being alive.

Reconstructing Utøya is a beautiful and touching documentary that attempts to approach the Utøya terrorist attack with a positive message. Certainly one of my favorite discoveries of the International Film Festival of La Roche-sur-Yon so far. If you haven’t got your ticket yet, the documentary comes back Friday, 18th at 9:15 am and 6:15 pm and also Saturday, 19th at 6:30 pm.

Élise Gilbert

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