February 14, 2006

Danish film examines tensions with Muslim immigrants

By Claire Watson and Mike Collett-White

BERLIN (Reuters) - For the director of a new film exploring
the tensions between Danes and Muslim immigrants, the row over
cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad first published in Denmark
should not have come as a complete surprise.

Annette Olesen's "1:1" was conceived long before the
caricatures, which have angered Muslims who view any portrayal
of the Prophet as blasphemous, appeared in a Danish publication
before being repeated in several other European countries.

But the 40-year-old from Copenhagen, who brought her film
to the Berlin Film Festival, saw clear links.

"Watching the film again last night ... was very strange,
because I think there is a parallel feeling between my little
film, and these characters, and the crisis," she told Reuters
in an interview late on Monday.

"I think something happened to the Western world and
America after 9/11 ... and there's a certain loss of innocence.
We were very interested in seeing how that affected people in
the street and how that has affected small communities."

The low-budget film, which Olesen says is principally about
fear, is set on a Danish housing estate where 16-year-old Mie
and her boyfriend Shadi are a model of interracial integration,
uniting Danish and Palestinian families respectively.

But tensions between and within the communities grow when
Mie's brother Per is badly beaten and falls into a coma.

Some of Mie's friends, along with the police, assume the
attackers are immigrants, and Shadi has reason to suspect that
the perpetrator was in fact his Muslim brother.

Olesen said her film, and the worldwide protests that have
erupted over the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, had been a
long time in coming.

"What the (Prophet) Mohammad drawings have caused is just a
symptom. It's much more complex ... than just the drawings.

"Inside of Denmark it's related to four or five years ...
of political debate and a political tone and a tone in the
media in Denmark which has been arrogant and allowed things to
be said that I think have not been very civilized."

The director said the drawings were the "last straw" for
some Muslims.

"People responded spontaneously because of the pressure
that has been in Denmark on the ethnic minorities and
especially the Muslim minority."

Danes have found themselves the target of protests across
the world, with Danish diplomatic missions set on fire and
commercial goods boycotted in some Muslim countries.