Play is an astute observation based on real cases of bullying. In central Gothenburg, Sweden, a group of boys, aged 12-14, robbed other children on about 40 occasions between 2006 and 2008. The thieves used an elaborate scheme called the ‘little brother number’ or ‘brother trick’, involving advanced role-play and gang rhetoric rather than physical violence.

Director's Statement

PLAY started out with a problem - my reaction to a newspaper article about five black boys who had robbed three white boys. Why did this affect me so strongly? Why did this image trigger such a huge response? The boys in question had robbed other children in broad daylight, in the middle of Göteborg. In spite of their youth, their ages at the time ranged from 12 to 14, they exploited their appearance and ethnicity in a sophisticated way, creating an implicit threat that allowed them to pull these crimes off. Playing on preconceptions and attitudes they had picked up on in society. PLAY deals with the type of events currently taking place throughout Europe, events that we have difficulty processing and thus tend to avoid. One reaction I’ve often encountered is when people assure me that they understand what PLAY is all about, but they’re afraid others may misinterpret the film. Shying away from the controversial aspects of events like these, either out of fear or kind-hearted concern, will only preserve and possibly fortify the fundamental problem. For this reason I’m happy that PLAY is chosen by the EFA Committee to be part of the films recommended for 2011. The world premiere in the Directors Fortnight was a first important step to reach out to the European audience. The LUX Competition, which involves screening this film for the members of the European Parliament, is also a truly significant development. Hopefully their reaction to PLAY will pose a problem and prompt them to rise to that challenge.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Ruben Östlund

Written by: Ruben Östlund

Produced by: Erik Hemmendorff, Philippe Bober

Cinematography: Marius Dybwad Brandrud

Editing: Ruben Östlund, Jacob Schulsinger

Production Design: Pia Aleborg

Original Score: Saunder Jurriaans, Daniel Bensi

Cast: Nana Manu, John Ortiz, Kevin Vaz, Anas Abdirahman, Sebastian Blyckert, Yannick Diakité, Sebastian Hegmar, Abdiaziz Hilowle

Nominations and Awards

  • Feature Film Selection 2011