"69", directed and shot by first-time filmmaker Nikolaj Viborg, looks at the dramatic events leading up to the authorities clearing Ungdomshuset on 1 March 2007 and the conflict that ensued. The film recently won the prestigious talent New Nordic Voices award at Nordisk Panorama 2008.
In 2006, when Viborg first started filming at Copenhagen’s Ungdomshus, he had no idea he’d end up with a film documenting one of the longest and costliest conflicts in Copenhagen’s history. Although, as early as 2006, it was clear that the controversy surrounding the house had become a political quagmire, few people probably expected to see the streets of Nørrebro transformed into a war zone with hurled cobblestones, burning cars, teargas and violent altercations between hooded youths and battle-ready police.
Shot in the heat of battle, the film offers a unique look at what went on inside the walls of Ungdomshuset right up to the time it was cleared. Meanwhile, the film contains impressive and frightening footage of the turmoil in the streets during the conflict. Personally manning a camera, Viborg filmed among the bedlam. “I was probably less afraid than I should have been,” he says. “You become distanced to everything that’s going on when you’re watching it through the camera. You barely realise you’re caught in a hail of cobblestones when you’re fiddling with your camera.”
The conflict revealed Danish youth culture to be part of a greater European community. Sympathisers from other European countries came to Copenhagen to support Ungdomshuset and the culture it represents, a sign that young Danes aren’t alone in feeling overlooked and alienated in the society they live in.
YOUTH HOUSE FOR ALL
Alongside the many violent scenes, the film shows sides of the activists that go beyond the usual media images, offering an altogether different view of Danish youth culture. Gone are the black hoods and Molotov cocktails. Instead, we follow a group of flesh-and-blood young people who are concerned for their house and the fond sense of community it represents to them.
Viborg himself used to frequent Ungdomshuset when he was younger, which proved to be an advantage in making 69. “My background gave me a leg up on other filmmakers and reporters,” he says. “Though it was years ago and I myself wasn’t a youth activist, it was still an advantage that many of the people there knew me.”
Viborg’s footage from inside Ungdomshuset offers a first-ever glimpse at the decision-making process inside Ungdomshuset leading up to demonstrations and other political actions, and how the people there thought, felt and strategised about the battles for their house. Following a central character, Mads, the film takes an empathic look at his fight against a system he doesn’t believe in.
MAJORITY IS NOT DEMOCRACY
"69" comes at a time when the conflict is less visible in Copenhagen, but its theme is still highly relevant, Viborg says,
“The film reflects on the normalisation conflict you see going on in a lot of places,” the director says. “The same thing is happening in Christiania, and similar tendencies are seen in other European cities. If one listens to the majority and forgets the minority, this leads to disharmony in society. The film’s focus is less on the conflict of Ungdomshuset than on the ongoing marginalisation that is present today and how this is alienating some people from their own society.”