Sweden is a great example of how immigration can have a negative effect on a white western liberal country that, on the surface, appears to welcome all comers. The blonde and blue eyed easy going liberal nation has seen an explosion in crime due to immigration over the decades. During the period 1997–2001, 25% of the almost 1,520,000 offences for which a perpetrator was convicted were committed by people born in the Middle East or Eastern Europe, while almost 20% were committed by people with a foreign background who were born in Sweden, nearly 50% of all serious crime. Those from North Africa and the Middle East were overrepresented. In youth crime it was much higher in that group, the subject and antagonism of this controversial and challenging Swedish movie. In recent years Sweden stopped recording crime by ethnicity, presumably because it was so high and embarrassing, something the woolen sweater wearing libertarians don’t want to deal with. Maybe this is why they are so good at crime writing?
Swedish Director/writer Ruben Olstand wanted to throw those numbers in the face of the Swedish people with ‘Play’, a version of the true story of a group of young Swedish black African boys aged 10-14 who targeted mostly young white kids in the malls and streets of Gothenburg for criminal entertainment, charged with over 40 offences over four years. They would use gang psychology and bullying to ‘extract’ things like cell phones, label clothing and wallets from the boys without actually mugging them, or so says the movie. In most European capitals a certain demographic is responsible for most street crime and stuff like credit card fraud and pick pocketing and it’s rarely the host population. 61% of street robberies in London are done by the 11% black population living there and most of the remainder by ethnic minorities, many not born in the U.K. It is a bravado crime that predominates in a gang culture as ethnic youth struggles to find some sort of status and respect in their neighborhood, violence a great leveler. It’s something the white liberal west doesn’t want to acknowledge or deal with it, simply wave the poverty card for the reasons for it and call you a racist for mentioning it. A mind boggling 69% of rapes in Sweden are recorded as committed by Muslim men although Sweden is one of very few countries who prosecutes marital rape and so skews the numbers against comparison countries somewhat. Yes, Scandinavia was the original rape and pillagers through those Viking years but it has gone downhill since asylum seekers and benefit tourists targeted its extremely lucrative welfare system. Why else would so many Iraqi and Somalia nationals cross 14 borders to get to the edge of the Aortic Circle?
In Gothenburg a gang of five black teenage boys act out a well drilled scheme for taking the belongings of mostly young innocent teenage boys, in which the black boys play good cop/bad cop. First they ask the time of their targets. When one of the victim’s checks the time on his mobile phone they claim it looks like the one that was stolen from a brother of one of them. The younger boys are intimidated and slowly dragged away from the comfort of the mall or town center by the black boys to verify this with the bigger brother, who doesn’t exist.
In the central plush Gothenburg mall today’s targets are friends Anas (Anas Abdirahman), Sebe (Sebastian Blyckert) and clarinet playing Asian boy Yanny (Yannick Diakité). They are middle-class and mature enough to be trusted by their parents to be alone in the bustling town center, aged around 12.
After some moving around the city and more mental intimidation and bullying, one boy in the gang wants to quit; the gang leader responds with beating him up and kicking him on the tram in front of shocked commuters. The four remaining gang members, Abdi (Abdiaziz Hilowle), Nana (Nana Manu) Manu, John (John Ortiz), Kevin (Kevin Vaz) proceed with the three boys deeper into the suburbs and away from their comfort zone, unable to contact their parents. More members of the public are intimidated and confronted in the process, very few willing to step in and help the agitated boys. At one point the seven have to flee from a gang of adults, clearly older brothers of previous victims looking for revenge, and one black and one white boy together get separated from the other five. By phone they find out the location of the others and reunite through a bond of sorts until the black boys get what they want, which is not always clear as they tease and bully the white boys to tears and confusion. Not only do they want the kids stuff but to mentally break them, like they were mentally broken by their piers and poverty, we presume…
I think this is a particularly powerful film because it is binary, the bad guys are black working-class and the good guys are white middle-class, the same middle-class that feels under siege these days by immigration, the type watching this movie. This film is about confronting and intimidating the audience rather than having a go at black immigrants. The black boys are smarter and more streetwise than the white kids, why they are able to do what they did, and so play by their rules as the white middle-class play by their rules, rules that keep the black boys out of the white schools and careers. They can’t afford the latest trainers and so will take them however which way. The director does row back and make that point in the final scene of the movie as the parents of some of the bullied boys confront the black boys by, yes, bullying them in the street. But, like I said, the liberal left simply couldn’t handle the film because of its perceived bias and debate raged across the nation when it was shown. The right simply said the movie reaffirmed what they think about immigration, and as it was a true story all the more powerful for it and couldn’t be contested as just a concept. It really happened and one race targeted the other. That’s not supposed to happen in Sweden. But as we saw in Norway with Brevick, that hate is festering in the whites, not used to this level of immigration.
It’s an interesting and atmospheric movie and its directorial style of an aloof central static camera shot not interfering too much with the actors helps to build the tension of the boy’s torments and plight. You become the increasingly distanced adults on the tram and on the streets who want to help the boys but too afraid to or not risking the consequences. If an adult belts a 14-year-old black boy in Sweden I guess only one party is going to jail. The director really tests you on that one. Boys can be very intimating at that age if not parented correctly. I think we have all had an embarrassing and angry situation on public transport out and about where kids have tried it on with you knowing you can’t react.
I also like the way the film leaves you guessing on what will happen. There are no clues in the writing or narrative what will happen and you can only feel for the boys as the sense of dread is cranked up. It mirrors the horrific Bulger crime at one point. But Olstand is cleverer still as he makes the black boys articulate and smart, earning your sympathies for their misdemeanors at times. He wants to keep working over the audience’s ribcage as he doesn’t let up with his thought provoking views and images. As one critic says – ‘you know these are impolite questions being asked of a progressive liberal society’. This is a foreign film fans movie and certainly thought provoking if you are slightly left of Ed Milliband.