Medievalists have become increasingly concerned in recent years about the misappropriation of medieval history by Neo-Nazis and far-right groups. A documentary has just been released that shows how medieval-history lovers are confronting these groups, taking place in Sweden.
Vikings Versus Neo-Nazis was filmed for Al Jazeera English and will be airing on their network during the week of March 29-April 4, and is now airing on its digital platforms. Made by British filmmaker Nicholas Ahlmark, with Swedish filmmakers Hanna Aqvilin and Keivan Salehpour, the documentary centres around Robin Lundin, a Swedish school-teacher who is also a Viking heritage enthusiast. He is also an activist against racism in Sweden, and is particularly disturbed by the way some people are misreading the country’s medieval past to promote racist and nationalist stereotypes.
The documentary follows Robin as he confronts the leader of the Nordic Resistance Movement, a facist group that has been using symbols of Norse culture to promote their ideology. While many Swedes are actively denouncing this group, Robin wanted to try a different approach in meeting with them. “His hope was to have a rational conversation, which would in some way make them think about it more,” says Ahlmark.
The filmmaker explains that he followed Robin as he went to one of the group’s rallies in Kungalv, a town just north of Gothenburg, which resulted in a forty-minute conversation with one of their leaders. The members of the Nordic Resistance Movement were surprised by the encounter, but agreed to speak with him, probably because Robin was dressed up as a Viking, which Ahlmark believes may have disarmed them. The result is a fascinating exchange.
The documentary also shows how Robin and fellow Viking-heritage enthusiasts are involved in Live-Action Role Playing (LARPing). Ahlmark and his crew filmed a three-night event held in the forests of Sweden, where everyone, including themselves, were dressed in character as they re-enacted a Viking funeral. He adds that this was the most fun aspect of making the film.
Vikings Versus Neo-Nazis is part of the program Witness, and will air on the Al Jazeera English TV channel several times during the week beginning March 29th. You can also follow Witness on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more details. Nicholas Ahlmark is a British-based filmmaker, who has made documentaries for channels such as Al Jazeera English and Vice.
Robin is part of the Swedish activist group Vikingar Mot Rasism (Vikings Against Racism) – .
The release of the documentary coincides with United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21st, and Ahlmark hopes that this documentary will also help educate the public about both the Middle Ages, and the misappropriation of the past. “People should know their facts, and know their history,” he says.
See also Nicholas Ahlmark’s piece Vikings vs Neo-Nazis: Battling the Far Right in Sweden on the Witness website.
Top Image: Image courtesy of the Al Jazeera Media Network