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  Sons of Denmark Extremist Dissed
Year: 2019
Director: Ulaa Salim
Stars: Zaki Youssef, Mohammed Ismail Mohammed, Imad Abul-Foul, Rasmus Berg, Morten Holst, Özlem Saglanmak, Asil Mohamad Habib, Olaf Johannessen, Elliott Crosset Hove, Ivan Alan Ali, Ali Hossein
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: A year ago, Denmark was rocked by a terrorist attack which killed over twenty people and has inadvertently given rise to a powerful new force in politics, led by the charismatic Martin Nordahl (Rasmus Berg), who is claiming if he gets to be Prime Minister he will send every Muslim immigrant back to the Middle East and Africa, keeping Denmark for the Danes, as he puts it. As far right attacks begin to spread across the country, young Muslims are left either scared or angry, and the men wonder what they can do to fight back, with violence if need be. One such young man is Zakaria (Mohammed Ismail Mohammed), who decides enough is enough and will join up with a cell...

Sons of Denmark, or Danmarks sønner if you prefer the original title, was controversial in its native land, especially with their equivalent of the Nordahl character who claimed it was a dangerous film, just the thing you imagine the makers would have wanted to hear. With the advances made by nationalism across the planet, it was certainly timely, and mixing that with the threat of terrorist atrocities was a potent cocktail, pointing out as it did that one bred the other: as one side became more extreme, so extremists were created on the other side, with the moderates and centrists caught in the middle. Caught in the firing line, you might say, as violence brewed beneath the surface.

And not only beneath the surface, but if writer and director Ulaa Salim was expressly not on the side of the nationalists, did that mean he was backing the alternative view? This was a reductive question in that there were more than one alternative views to any political position, but then his movie was not interested in nuance as it adopted, or examined, the us vs them tendencies of modern politics, where the followers were more likely to excuse any kind of wrongdoing or grave mistake if the leaders they admired had taken the post of building up an enemy for the followers to despise. It wasn't even a matter of getting the trains running on time anymore: just increase the hatred.

One aspect Sons of Denmark got right was that this emphasis on demonising the "other" that characterised nationalist politics was going to have explosive effects, and threatened that may be literal, but while for the first half hour or so it looked like a basic radicalisation drama, sort of a serious version of Chris Morris's comedy Four Lions, it took an abrupt twist straight after to concentrate on Zakaria's buddy Malik (Zaki Youssef). He was an insider with the terrorist squad who are trying to prevent things getting out of hand again, but as Nordahl seems set to take his mantle of leader, his previous cohorts, far right thugs, basically, are upping their game, emboldened by one of theirs in such a position of influence at last, rather than regarded as a simple crank boosting his ego by picking on minorities.

You could see the film as a warning, yet it was a thriller as well as a race against time was conducted to stop the worst happening - the far right have arranged to attack Muslims across the nation to celebrate their new leader. By showing us both sides, first the radicalised Islamists then their opposite number in society, Salim looked to be illustrating some balance, though not in a remotely reassuring manner, and by setting his tale in the near future that undercut the sense that he did not quite have his facts correct on how young men are brought to dangerous ideologies. The most we see of the internet, for example, are brief scenes of characters watching war footage online, and the problem is depicted as purely masculine, as women are sidelined to be supportive and caring towards their brave soldiers, while children are little but victims. There was a good point being made here, but it did get lost in the hardheaded brutality and over the top melodrama. It was also too long, though it regained its focus by the finale.

[Eureka's Blu-ray of this title has a trailer as an extra, and that's your lot, though there is a booklet included.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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