Danmarks sønner [Sons of Denmark] (2019)

Danmarks sønner
Director: Ulaa Salim
Writer: Ulaa Salim
Cast: Zaki Youssef, Mohammed Ismail Mohammed, Imad Abul-Foul, Rasmus Bjerg, Morten Holst, Olaf Johannessen, Özlem Saglanmak
Part of: /slash Filmfestival 1/2

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism, white supremacy

Denmark, a few years in the future. After an attack on Copenhagen, radicalization in the country has accelarated and with elections coming near, Martin Nordahl (Rasmus Bjerg) is set to win in a landslide victory with his extreme right-wing party. Zakaria (Mohammed Ismail Mohammed) sees that development with unease. He is a muslim and his family migrated to Denmark, so he knows he is a target and he wants to do something about it. He finds an ally in Malik (Zaki Youssef) when they meet at a new organization for young men like them.

Sons of Denmark is a politically astute film that is appropriately suffocating in its look at the rightwing politics that are on the rise in Europe again. The film-making isn’t quite as good as the film’s message, but given that it’s Salim’s feature debut the few things that don’t work that well can be easily forgiven.

The film poster showing the Danish flag with blood dripping from its red parts.

Sons of Denmark takes a hard look at the way extreme right-wing politics marginalizes and disenfranchises people in Europe, simply because they are Muslim and/or their families have immigrated. That this continuous marginalization leads to radicalization is no surprise. There is really no wiggle room for doubt here what this kind of nazi rhetoric does – and that there really is no dilution, no “just a bit nazi”. I’m sure the fact that Salim himself is from an immigrant family helps him sharpen his gaze at the situation. That the film is set in the near-future feels almost unnecessary because this where we are at now, if you ask me.

So, the political content of the film is definitely on point and doesn’t pull any punches. On the more technical film level, there were a couple of things that don’t work quite as well as they could have. The film was a tad too long and I felt that it should have shifted its focus to Malik a little sooner. But those are small things, especially considering that it’s the first feature for Salim.

Zakaria (Mohammed Ismail Mohammed) looking up at something.

The cast is excellent, with Mohammed and Youssef grounding the film emotionally. Given that it’s Mohammed’s first performance and Youssef’s first feature film (I think), this is particularly impressive. You can really feel with Zakaria and Malik and the film uses that perfectly to maintain tension throughout.

The film unfolds a bleak vision of our near future that is, unfortunately, very realistic. Thus you leave the cinema with a feeling of pressure: there’s not much time or space left in this world to do things differently, to not go down that path. So we should really do something about that.

Politician Martin Nordahl (Rasmus Bjerg) giving a speech.

Summarizing: Really good.

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