With extremism rising in different parts of Europe, this movie deals with this sensitive matter at a time when it is much-needed.
Right-wing extremism is on the rise throughout the world. Charged with vitriol for a group of "others" right-wing activists have been spreading hate and malice not only in America but also in Europe. Misinformation and hate are mostly spread through social media, making the younger generation of digital natives a target for consuming right-wing extremist information. The anti-immigration stance, Islamophobia, and anti-mask and vaccine disinformation, among other conspiracy theories, are the doings of the hyper-polarization of politics.
The German film, "Je Suis Karl" or "I Am Karl" deals with this sensitive matter at a time when addressing it is of great importance. It deals with Germany's rising Identitarian Movement which is a form of right-wing extremist movement akin to a wolf in a sheep's clothes. With extremism rising in different parts of Europe, this movie, which you can stream on Netflix, can just open up the much-needed discourse. Warning, major spoilers ahead.
The movie starts off with Alex Baier (Milan Peschel) and his wife Inès Baier (Mélanie Fouché) helping a man, Yusuf (Aziz Dyab,) a Libyan refugee to cross the border from the Czech Republic to Germany. The story then moves on to two years after this incident to the Baier household that comprises the parents and their three children. One day when Alex goes down from their apartment to pick up the groceries from his car, a bomb explodes in his apartment building, killing his family. His daughter, Maxi (Luna Wedler,) also manages to escape the blast.
After a funeral held for the deceased, a group of reporters chases Maxi down and she is saved by a charming young man named Karl. He recognizes Maxi from the news report and invites her to join his activist group Re/Generation, a group of young people with far-right ideologies. Maxi gets inducted into the group and she shares her tragic loss as part of it. Unbeknownst to her, they were the ones responsible for the bomb blast that killed her family. After having learned that the bomb had killed his fellow countrymen, it is believed that Karl approaches Maxi out of guilt. They develop a relationship.
Karl's right-wing ideology, based on a foundation of Islamophobia and anti-immigration sentiments, leads him to take extreme steps to create a policy change in Germany against immigrants. The first step was planting the bomb to create a wave of fear and hatred. He then supports a right-wing French politician, Odile Duval, and even attends a rally. There he convinces his compatriot that one of them needs to be murdered to create even more sentiments of fear and anger against the "others." He offers to sacrifice himself and after rousing speeches at Duval's rally, Karl is shot dead. This prompts his group to take up the slogan "Je Suis Karl" or "I am Karl" as a way of creating a movement that the life of the citizens of Germany was at risk due to immigrants. But it is clear that it was all manufactured hate and tension.
Alex has been worried sick looking for his daughter. He reconnects with Yusuf after two years, who now goes by the name Adam, to avoid discrimination. He manages to locate Maxi in France and the two set out to bring her back home. Meanwhile, Karl's staged assassination has taken place and a riot breaks out. Fearing Yusuf would be targeted by the violent mob, they hide him in a car. As the crowd gets more and more violent, it is Yusuf who comes to their rescue. He leads Alex and Maxi into an underground tunnel. The three of them make it out of the riot alive. The movie ends on this poignant note that the enemy is not actually who we think it is.