This is a terrifying look at multi-racial youth gangs in Norway, shot in the style of a documentary. Director Eric Poppe, whose previous work is in the field of commercial films, concentrates in his first feature on the lives of five young boys living in contemporary Oslo. Thirteen-year-old Jonas and his pal Emir, who is two years older and comes from former Yugoslavia, are good friends who both belong to a gang of Oslo youths aged between 11 and 15. Their world is dominated by committing petty crimes to earn a fast buck, often entailing drug dealing. Emir has been dealing with brain damage ever since his father hit him on the head with a wooden club; he suffers from sudden outbursts of violence against adults and his peers, and his behavior stretches the limits of his friendship with Jonas. Schpaaa (which is a slang term for 'cool') is a modern day version of a famous 1948 film from Norway called Gategutter/Street Boys, in which director Arne Skouens portrayed the lives of poor street kids in Oslo in the thirties. Erik Poppe used amateurs for all the main roles to give the narrative a more realistic look and deliberately avoided moralizing. Schpaaa made a big impression in Norway, which prompted the Ministry for Children and Family to arrange for extra screenings. The visually stunning film was shown as part of the Panorama program of the 49th International Berlin Film Festival, 1999.
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