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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



'PLAY' at 52nd Thessaloniki Film Festival.








photo still from 'PLAY'


In the 'Open Horizons' section of the 52nd Thessaloniki Film Festival, the Swedish film (co-production with France and Denmark) PLAY (2011) by director Ruben Östlund was screened to audiences. PLAY premiered at Cannes this year in the 'Quinzaine des Réalisateurs (Directors' Fortnight)' section.

This is a compelling account of theft by bullying which confronts the immigration problems during economic recession, a fitting selection for the current climate of the Western Europe economy. PLAY is a riveting art-house suspense, and remarkably true story, based on 40 occurrences between 2006-2008 where a gang of foreign boys in Gothenburg, Sweden use a type of reverse psychologically (what they called the “little brother number” or “brother trick”), on other boys their age to rob their state-of-the-art cell phones and wallets. They are poor immigrants living in Sweden who come from large families with little to no education, victims of a world where shopping malls have taken over parks and technology over vis-a-vis communication. Everywhere they look they are beset by the reminder of what they don't have in a material world and that they are increasingly ignored and marginalized. The only way to change the problem is for them to make noise to be heard and steal to gain money.

Using reverse psychology to steal (as opposed to violence) these pre-teens almost befriend the Swedish boys they steal from, as if the main commodity wanting here is in fact friendship and someone to 'play' with rather than the cellphones themselves and money they hope to make from them. The group of foreign bullies ranges from around ages 12-14 and they bully other boys the same age. They wander the streets all day running amok and one has to ask not only 'where are the parents' but ‘where are all the adults'? It's a city of lost children crying for change and guidance just before things are about to explode. Today it's physiological torture; tomorrow merciless violence? This is not just a Swedish problem; after all, this is the world's problem dealing with situations of mass immigration, the ever climbing divide between have and have-nots and the difficulty of acceptance and assimilation to change.

Throughout the film there are inserts of a scene on a train where an abandoned baby carriage blocks one of the doors to the train. The train's inspector repeatedly announces that if the owner does not remove the carriage they will have to remove it themselves. Could this be a subliminal message for a problem big and impossible to ignore, of which all of us can see blocking the door and which no one takes a stand to do anything about? Do we continue to just look from afar until authorities and law remove the problem from our sight? Or can we ourselves look at the problem and find a way to deal with and make a change? All of these poignant questions are raised in the events of PLAY.


Director Ruben Östlund

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