DOXA 2013: Wrong Time Wrong Place searches for meaning in massacre

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      Anders Breivik is only glimpsed once, very briefly, in this film about the aftermath of Norway’s Oslo and Utøya island massacre, and his name is never mentioned. The point is subtle but clear. Wrong Time Wrong Place is about the victims and survivors of the carefully planned killing spree that occurred on July 22, 2011, and it opts for the reflective over the sensational.

      Filmmaker John Appel frequently leaves his camera to run uninterrupted while his subjects—including a man blinded and crippled by the blast in Oslo and a student who boarded the same ferry as the killer—process their still raw experiences, right before our eyes. What they share in common is a yearning to apprehend a greater but unknowable order to things. Why me? Why did I hide here, not there? Why did she never learn to swim?

      The parents of a Georgian girl bicker over the meaning of her death on the island, but his belief in the random is every bit as sustaining as her need for a more mystical interpretation.  Perhaps most striking is a young Ugandan woman who was two months pregnant when the shooting began. She wonders if her child—named Michael, for reasons movingly explained in the film—could possibly understand what they went through together.

      The last story we hear contains the kind of cosmic irony that you might not believe if it didn’t actually happen. This could all come off as a filmmaker playing metaphysical footsie with real tragedy, but it’s to Appel’s credit that Wrong Time Wrong Place pays such quietly powerful tribute to its victims.

      Watch an interview with filmmaker John Appel about his documentary Wrong Time Wrong Place.

      Wrong Time Wrong Place screens on Saturday (May 4) at Vancity Theatre at 12:00 p.m., and Tuesday (May 7) at the Cinematheque at 8:30 p.m.