The Swedish director Ruben Östlund's much discussed - and highly awarded - film, "Play," had its U.S. premier at the New York Film Festival in October.
The film scooped two major international awards in quick succession at festivals in Tokyo and Moscow at the end of October.
At the Tokyo International Film Festival Ruben Östlund picked up the award for Best Director. Earlier in the week Play also won the Grand Prix for Best Film at the "2-in-1" International Film Festival in Moscow.
The film, which also won prizes at this year's Cannes International Film Festival, was probably one of the most discussed films at the New York festival. Next month is its premier in Sweden, and the film has already caused heated discussion.
"Play" was inspired by actual events that occurred in Göteborg, Sweden from 2006 through 2008. A group of black boys, ages 12 to 14, robbed other children on about 70 different occasions. Ruben Östlund's producer, Erik Hemmendorff, showed him a news article about it, and the idea for the film was born.
Opening in a mall, we see a group of five African immigrant youths blame two better-off boys for stealing one of their little brother's mobile phones. The accused boys denied it and tried to prove their innocence. But they were persuaded to follow the unknown boys to straighten things out, and if the phone wasn’t their little brother’s, they would be free to go. The Swedish boys understood from the beginning they were the ones who would be robbed, yet they voluntarily followed them. The group took these kids on a trip across Goteborg, and showed Sweden's downside with gloomy weather and desolate industrial parks.
The film discusses race and class and plays with subjects that are hard to talk about. It talks about the feeling of guilt, how both sides can use and abuse that sense of guilt. The film also points out the place of Africans in modern Sweden and how people in Sweden see themselves within their country.
"Do you hate black people..?"
Östlund has received many reactions about the way the film creates a debate. "'Do you hate black people?’ journalists asked me in Cannes. I want to provoke with my film, and make it hard for people to walk around it, and force them to face the problem instead. I used to answer them 'what in my movie makes me a racist?’ and the journalists often have no answer.”
When you watch "Play," your sympathy shifts in different ways and you suddenly feel sorry for the young criminals. An example is when violence is used by older white boys who seek revenge for a theft from their own little brother, as well as by a father against one of the black boys whom he knows has stolen his son’s phone.
Skin color is only mentioned one time, late in the film, by the black boys themselves, when they point out how stupid the kids were when they showed their phones to a group of black boys.
"Play" premiered in Sweden on November 11, 2011 and even though the script was written in 2009, the film is right on time for a debate over the far-right party, Sweden Democrats, and their immigration policy .
Watch the trailer on YouTube: Play