Two young women who got caught up in the 2011 terror attacks in Norway describe the harrowing events.

Last Modified: 17 Jul 2013 18:30
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This is the story two young Norwegian women who dream of a better future for their country. Sana and Johanne are activists in two different youth political parties.

They were preparing for the 2011 election by intense training in debating techniques. On July 21, Johanne boarded the ferry to Utoya Island to attend the Workers Youth League summer camp.

When a massive bomb went off in the heart of Oslo, the country was in shock. Right-wing extremist Anders Breivik went on to kill 69 people at the summer camp, and Johanne was lucky to survive.

This film portrays two courageous young women who continue with their political activism despite the traumatic events.

Filmmaker's view  

By Kari Anne Moe

When I was 15 years old, I joined a political youth party. It was great. There were summer camps, rallies, weekend conferences.

We learned how to debate and campaigned in elections. I experienced that fabulous feeling you get when, for the first time, you understand something from a new perspective, whether that be feminism or radical economic theory. And I learned how to make myself heard, how to grab the microphone and speak up. I realised that, although I was just a teenager, I could make a difference.

Ever since I became a filmmaker, I had wanted to make a film about young people who dare to take a stand; to make a film with all those burning feelings that I know so well.

I wanted to follow young people from through the election campaign at their schools. After test-filming 135 youngsters, I chose Sana, who was 16, and Johanne, who was 18. When I started filming these two fantastic girls, I had no idea what lay ahead.

On July 22, 2011, my camera crew were following Johanne, a member of Labour Youth on the island of Utoya, where she was attending her party's summer camp. In the early afternoon, we left Johanne on the island and travelled back to Oslo city centre because we were going to film the other main character, Sana, there.

Just before we set up the camera, Oslo was shaken by a bomb. As we filmed Sana and her friends from the Socialist Youth League, it became clear that the bomb had gone off in the government area.

At first, there were rumours that al-Qaeda was responsible for the terror. Sana,who is a Muslim herself, took this very hard. I remember afterwards watching the recordings where she talks about how afraid she was that Muslims would be blamed.

Her concern made me cry: I was so sad because this really showed how a 16-year-old girl can suffer when certain groups are made scapegoats by the public.

Later in the afternoon, a gunman entered the summer camp at Utoya in order to kill. Johanne survives, but is marked for life after this horrible experience which she talks about in a very detailed way in the film.

Both Sana and Johanne have their personal reasons to be politically active, and their stories are told through straightforward interviews and filming them going about their daily lives: at school, at home and hanging out with friends.

I decided to stay loyal to the story about Johanne and Sana, and their involvement in youth politics, despite the tragic events. But as their worlds changed, the film also changed. We continued to film Sana and Johanne throughout August and September during their school election campaigns.

I hope that by focusing on their grief and the powerful will to fight for their rights and views, the film also captures an essential part of Norway’s deeper feelings and thoughts on the foundations of its society and democracy. I hope these ideas come out through the eyes of two young Norwegian girls of different social backgrounds.

In the Netherlands a journalist wrote that in a way this film gives an honest and intimate insight into these two young lives, but it eventually engages in a wider, international dialogue. I was very happy to read this, because I think politics are far too important to leave exclusively to professional politicians performing on television.

Bravehearts is a film about young people who want to make a difference. And now, after the tragic event in Norway where so many kids were killed, I feel it is more important than ever to tell their story. Sana and Johanne show us what was attacked that day. And hopefully, they can inspire other young people to make themself heard and play a positive role in making the world a better place.

Click here  for more Witness films.


Al Jazeera
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