Wrongful convictions and false confessions – these two documentaries inspire a demand for criminal justice reform.
Margareta Hruza
Hruza is a Czech/Norwegian filmmaker and a regular film critic at Modern Times Review.
Published date: October 20, 2018

Org: Leslie Brinner / Falske tilståelser)
Country: Sweden, 2018, 82 minutes /Denmark, Germany 2018, 93 min

Scandinavian feature documentaries are searching outside of their own territories when looking for a topic, protagonist and setting. Besides giving the Best Nordic Documentary award to the well-deserving The Deminer by Hogir Hirori and the audience award to The Distant Barking of Dogs by Simon Lereng Wilmont, only a few of the films that were nominated at the Nordic Panorama this year were shot in a Nordic country. Therefore, it was all the more pleasing to see that the opening film, Leslie on Fire by Stefan Berg, brought us a little closer to the local grounds of Malmö. False Confessions by Katrine Philp, which won the audience award at this year’s CPH:DOX, was also nominated.

Ghetto hero

Stefan Berg’s Leslie on Fire gives us a peek into the poverty and crime-stricken area of Sofielund, a highly segregated area of Malmö, where we meet the 14-year-old Leslie Tay. Although the protagonist is very likeable and speaks openly about his emotions, it seems as if Stefan Berg couldn’t pin down the theme of his film, hence it is missing some depth.

The young Leslie is a dreamer. He talks and walks like a gangster and wants to be a rock star. When his mother leaves Sweden to return to Ghana, Leslie has to move in with his violent father, whom he doesn’t really know but still fears. He gets into trouble with the school and the law. Leslie’s best friend is sent back to Iran for bad behaviour. Things don’t look promising.

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Then the movie takes a sudden leap into the future: 13 years later and Leslie Tay is one of the most promising up-and-coming talents from the rhythm and blues scene in Sweden. It’s a shame the movie doesn’t give us the missing link here, it would’ve been interesting to at least get a glimpse of the inner journey the main character has undergone.

The greatest asset this film has are the black-and-white video recordings of Leslie as a youngster. They introduce us to the milieu of the youth gangs. The video material from the early 2000s is an interesting contrast to the present day situation: Leslie as a thug versus Leslie as a hard working artist; Leslie as an abandoned youth versus Leslie greeted by a horde of fans.

Although Leslie collects awards as a producer and songwriter for other musicians, he continuously postpones the release of his own – long awaited – debut album. This is presented as his greatest challenge: …

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