Director: Frederik Louis Hviid, Anders Ølholm
Runtime: 108 minutes
Cast: Jacob Lohmann, Simon Sears, Tarek Zayat
Synopsis: Jens and Mike, two police officers, are on routine patrol in a Danish ghetto when the news of 19-year-old Talib Ben Hassi’s death under police custody spreads. As the community’s youth seek revenge, the two officers find themselves trapped in a maze of buildings and conflict.
Joint writers and directors Frederik Louis Hviid and Anders Olholm give us this compelling, intense police genre film.
The exact details of what took place while Talib Ben Hassi (19) was in police custody remain unclear but the film opens with the black teenager lying face down, a white police officer on his back. The chillingly familiar: “I can’t breathe,” he pleads. Police officers, Jens [Jacob Hauberg: Lohmann Darkland (2017), Follow the Money III (2019)] and Mike [Simon Sears: Shadow and Bone (TV Series (2019), The Exception (2019)] are on routine patrol in Svalegården’s ghetto when news of Talib’s death comes in over the radio, igniting uncontrollable, pent-up rage in the ghetto’s youth, who lust for revenge. Suddenly, the two officers find themselves fair game and must fight tooth and claw to find a way out.
The filmmakers have stated that they don’t consider Shorta to be a political film, but simply about people. “Our aim is neither to defend nor to criticise, but merely to try and understand the ‘why’ behind people’s actions and worldviews. The angry, disenfranchised young men from the housing projects, who feel demonized and misunderstood, as well as the overworked and underpaid police officers for whom the same holds true,” they state.
Shorta – which is Arabic slang for “police’” – owes a great debt to directors such as William Friedkin, Sydney Lumet and Walter Hill with their gritty thrillers and complex antiheroes from the 70’s and 80’s. But also to filmmakers like Spike Lee and Matthieu Kassowitz whose works simmer with anger, outrage and defiance and deliver strong social commentary with a heightened visual style. It is a beautifully shot film with excellent cinematography from Jacob Møller underlining the oppressive atmosphere, dealing with topics such as racism and police violence with intelligence.
The officers are warned to stay out of Svalegårdena, the estate which is a powder keg waiting to explode. The shift commander puts solidly decent Jens (Simon Sears) in a car with repellent racist Mike (Jacob Hauberg Lohmann), a man who demands respect by bullying and intimidation. Things go wrong when Mike stops and searches cheeky Arab kid Amos (Tarek Zayat making his debut). He goes in hard, humiliates Amos, arrests him; at that moment news breaks that Talib is dead, triggering a riot.
But the film presents more psychological aspects than pure action, and makes the viewer change their perspectives of the main characters, finding nuances in each of them.
Cops Jens and Mike are trapped inside this concrete jungle of high-rise flats, pursued by a gang on mopeds in balaclavas. There are plenty of heart-pumping moments.
“We have strived to make a film with a sense of urgency that puts the audience right in the middle of the chaos – a film that makes the viewer an active participant in an ever-escalating conflict and forces them to not look away. We live in a dark time. Humanity needs hope. And ultimately that is what Shorta is to us, a story of hope. You have to be willing to go through a lot of darkness, but there is light on the other side,” comments Frederik Louis Hviid, Anders Ølholm.
Images courtesy of: Vertigo Releasing