INTO THE DARK ALONE

Norwegian film-maker Kathrine Haugen writes here about the moment she received the shocking news that turned her world upside down (text translated):

I was in Cyprus for a week to plan the recording of the feature film Skvis. I was in the hotel room when one of my best friends called and told me that Norway’s child welfare system, Barnevernet, and the police had taken their children away.

Of course, I did not understand what my friend had told me – this had to be some kind of misunderstanding. I refused to believe that what my best friend was telling me had taken place in Norway. But the rug had been pulled out from beneath my feet, and in fact I now feel constantly unsure whenever I’m on Norwegian soil. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will ever be safe again in Norway – not as long as there are children in my life that I care about.

What I eventually realised was that I could use my knowledge and experience as a film-maker to make a film that showed off this hidden universe known as NCWS in Norway. I did not know how to do it, but I knew that the identities of my friend and her children would be exposed and made known. At that time, I was not aware of how many people in Norway were affected by this system, but slowly and surely it became apparent to me just how extensive the “child council” of the Norwegian state was, and what it was actually doing. I realised relatively early in the process that this movie was going to take up many years of my life, and I’m sorry for that.

My first idea was to make a fictional movie with a little girl in the lead role. But as I started researching – filming the people I interviewed – it became clear that a documentary would be more appropriate.

I then decided to take a master’s at NTNU [the Norwegian University of Science and Technology] to make sure that I could receive help from the best people in the country, which actually happened.

I started filming in November 2011, and I have followed several families since then. Others have met me along the way. As meeting with NCWS has such a fundamental impact on human life, it was important for me to do a thorough job. I wanted to explain how and why the system works the way it does today. And then I had to go back to the starting point before the first child welfare act came into force in 1900.

The saying, “If you are going through hell, keep on going”, describes the last six years of my life. And it’s not much comfort to know that the families exposed to NCWS are far worse off than me. That just makes the job even harder. There is nothing about this system I find attractive. There is no point to it. It’s just destructive.

Having said that, I’m very grateful for all the people I’ve made friends with through the work of this film. I’m also glad that I have been able to change myself as a person. I believe that at one point or another in life everyone is forced along the wide path and into the forest, where the opening to the underworld is located. You go down into the darkness to see what is happening where the daylight does not reach, and then getting out the other side helps you to grow up.

Seeing the world through a veil of naivety is comfortable as long as you can live in peace, but when you suddenly face a conflict with a massive power system like the Norwegian state it is desirable to understand and recognise the realities as quickly as possible. I think it is important to make known the ideology and methodology used by the state of Norway against families and children. Then you can be on guard and take some precautions. Unfortunately, many of the families I have come to know have, like me, had too much trust in the system, and therefore they were not prepared for what came the day that society turned on them.

Like Dante, I managed to go down into the dark alone. I became familiar with a lawyer who for more than twenty years worked on child welfare cases. She had been down into the darkness before and was able to tell me what was happening, both inside and outside the judicial system, in these cases. I have gained many experiences, which have been affirmed through a thorough review of many things. Through this lawyer I also became familiar with a group of researchers at the University of Bergen, who investigate words relating to justice from a literary point of view. By being an observer of this group under Professor Arild Linneberg, the content of this film has become far better than I had hoped when I started out in 2011.

[Photo: Pixabay.com / CC0 Creative Commons]