On November 28, 2006, 16-year-old Kamal Masri rode his bike to football practice in Malmo, Sweden, the city to which, many years earlier, his parents had moved from Lebanon.

An hour later, his family received a telephone call from the police. Kamal had fallen off his bike and was in hospital, they were told.

But at the hospital the doctors discovered that Kamal has been shot five times. There were bullets lodged in his head, shoulder and neck.

Instead of portraying Kamal as the innocent victim of an attempted murder, the Swedish press began speculating about possible gang connections.

After months in hospital, Kamal was allowed to go home. But with no idea who his attacker was, his family worried that they might return. They decided that Kamal should move to Lebanon with his mother.

Kamal Masri a few years before being shot multiple times in the head and neck. He was only 16 years old at the time of his attempted murder in Malmo, Sweden [Manal Masri]

Meanwhile, back in Malmo, more immigrants and members of ethnic minorities were being shot.

Then, on November 6, 2010, the police arrested Peter Mangs. He was charged with three murders and 12 attempted murders, but, although police suspected him of shooting Kamal, Kamal's case was not included in his trial.

Mangs was convicted on several of the charges and sentenced to life in prison.

But without a definitive answer as to who tried to murder their son and brother, Kamal's family finds it difficult to move on.

So his sister, Manal, tries an alternative approach: she begins writing to Mangs in prison.

Mangs responds and the two start exchanging letters that Manal hopes will lead to a confession and some closure for her family.

With Letters to a Serial Killer, Witness follows Manal and her family as she corresponds with the man researcher and author Mattias Gardell describes as "the most effective and successful racist serial killer" Sweden has ever encountered.


Filmmaker's View

by Manal Masri

I was never interested in making a film about a family, even less a film about my own family. But I realized early on that what we went through was bigger than us.

Letters to a Serial Killer filmmaker Manal Masri used documentary to try to unveil the identity of her brother's would be killer [Manal Masri] 

That it is a story about racism and the increasing hate crimes against immigrants in Europe. A story about a dark period in European history, about a kind of terrorism that we rarely hear about, and a society that doesn't want to acknowledge it.

It is also a story about a normal family that goes through one of the worst things you can experience: the attempted murder of a young son and brother, and how they deal with it both as a family and as individuals. On a chilly evening in November 2006, my brother, who was 16 at the time, was shot five times while on his bicycle. He was on his way to soccer practice.

He miraculously survived and now lives with one of the bullets still inside his brain.

The incident triggered a series of events, all of which are depicted in my film, Letters to a Serial Killer. After several years of uncertainty and fear, we got a phone call from the police saying they had found a suspect: a serial killer targeting brown and black people.

It took me seven years to make this film. Before the release I was nervous: what if someone from the far right would attack me or anyone from my family? My brother had already been through so much. I even thought about pulling the film back.

Manal Masri, Filmmaker/theatre director

How could this happen in Sweden, a democratic welfare state known for its solidarity? I needed to know, so I got in touch with the serial killer himself. I knew I had to tell this very personal story. I've been telling stories my whole life as a theatre and film director/producer and I felt a responsibility to use my voice and platform, something that the other affected families did not have. As a filmmaker, I also wanted to make a creatively interesting documentary that would keep the audience intrigued, so I decided to work towards the thriller genre.

It took me seven years to make this film. Before the release I was nervous: what if someone from the far right would attack me or anyone from my family? My brother had already been through so much. I even thought about pulling the film back. My producer calmed me down and we discussed safety measures.

After the release, the response was overwhelming and people still contact me every day to thank me. The film was well received by critics and was nominated for a Guldbaggen - the Swedish equivalent of an Academy Award. But what meant the most was that sitting next to me was my brother, alive and well.

Source: Al Jazeera