This film documents the memories and present interactions of the director as she takes a hard look at her own actions and motivations from when she was a teenager. Now a grown young woman, Karen is still haunted by vague recollections of things she did and said when she was a teen and , with her own camera – coupled with archival photos and videos – she takes us along on a journey to discover more about her past. There are things she either can’t or is unable to remember, and what she can recall is mired in guilt and regret from which she has been unable to move forward as an adult.
Teenagers the world over have their own sense of angst and rebellion, and the events which shape us all by the time we reach adulthood are as varied and as unique as we are. For Karen Winther, the root of her chosen path when she was a youth is largely a mystery, even to her. She has items that she remembers owning, but she no longer has a sense of why she acquired them. She has diaries, and letters, which document her thoughts in her own words, but she can no longer recall what led to her thinking and feeling the way she did at the time. Some of the people who knew her then are still a part of her life now, but the vast majority have found their own paths through a very tumultuous time in Oslo’s history.
And what a time it was. Oslo in the 80’s when Winther was a young girl was splintered by two vocal political factions. There were neo-Nazi groups ravaging the streets in their hate of foreigners and all things different from their idea of a “pure” Norway. And on the other side of the coin were the anti-racist and alternative music-loving “Blitzers” – young people who protested against everything for which the neo-Nazis stood. They more or less lived at the Blitz, carving their own community out in an environment of shared ethics and politics, and governing themselves accordingly. It was to the Blitz that young Karen ran whenever she argued with her mother, after having researched the group for a social science paper in school. In the beginning, she found a sense of belonging there, and a sense of purpose – but it would soon all take an ugly, unpredictable turn.
For reasons she is now only beginning to sort out through the making of this film, Karen Winther turned snitch on her Blitz friends, and betrayed them all to the neo-Nazi group, the Boot Boys. Promised refuge and solidarity in exchange for any information she could hand over about Blitz, Karen eagerly shared as much as she could, right up until the moment she was outted publicly as the Snitch. From then on, her picture was everywhere, on posters all over the city. She had nowhere to run but to the Boot Boys who’d promised her protection in the first place, so at a time when a teen carves out their own sense of identity, she became someone unrecognizeable even to herself. She joined the neo-Nazi movement of Oslo.
With this documentary, Winther points the camera at herself, and includes reactions and recollections from her family, friends and former friends, the man who helped her escape the neo-Nazi life, and even the man who helped get her into it in the first place. It’s not an easy film to watch, and Karen doesn’t get all of the answers to her questions, but she does gain some perspective on everything that happened, and how her actions affected those who’d once been closest to her. More importantly, however, is that she manages to finally get a sense of being able to put it all behind her and move forward. By the end of the turmoil, there is finally a tentative sense of peace.
The Betrayal is screening as part of the Hot Docs festival in Toronto on Saturday April 28 at 7:30pm (TIFF Lightbox), Sunday April 29 at 4:00pm (Cumberland) and Friday may 4 at 9:00pm (ROM)