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Fantasia 2020: “The Columnist”


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Cyber-bullying often goes unpunished. In certain cases, an offensive comment or threat on Facebook or Twitter can be blocked, but the user continues his attack like nothing happened. When bad words are aimed at a certain individual, those typing away on their laptop do not realize that what they say can really hurt. They also do not understand that it can backfire too. Sometimes a victim of an online attack can get fed up with this and will try to stop it at any cost. One of those examples is perfectly stated in “The Columnist”.

The film follows famous a columnist, Femke Boot (Katja Herbers). Her views and opinions differ from others. Her criticism of another fellow writer is not being taken lightly. Social networks are full of negative comments and threats that literally gets on Femke’s nerve. When, at some point, she gets no help from the police, she takes the matter into her own hand by beginning to track down each attacker to remind them that being nice is much better than being ruthless and rude. However, she has no intentions of forgiving, because she has simply crossed the line of acceptance and enters into a dark zone from where there is no way of returning back to normality.

Femke Boot is a woman who makes herself an easy target for men of different ages. This is what is truly outstanding in “The Columnist”. All the online trolls are either young or old. It is not as if one single individual wants to bully the woman online; the problem is far greater than that. Some of the lines you often hear from online bullies are, “we did not mean it” or “I just wanted to join the crowd” or “it was simply cool” and things like that. They call her different names and think it is funny, while the woman is literally getting more mad minute by minute.

Her first victim was a friendly neighbor (Rein Hofman) who, online, is an aggressive racist and invites people to sexually assault Femke just because he doesn’t agree with her. One of the most important questions being asked in the film is when Femke asks, “Why can’t we just have different opinions and be nice about it?” The problem is, when the film revolves around an army of trolls that considers themselves as the king of internet, someone like Femke does get triggered to remind them once in a while – enough is enough.

“The Columnist”  is a brutally honest film that offers a radical answer to online bullying. Certainly, we don’t have to agree with what Femke is doing but the number of suicides due to the same online bullying is much larger than the small group of people Femke goes after. Screenwriter Daan Windhorst is not nice to horrendous people but he also takes the ability from Femke to be more calculated and careful when she becomes a serial murderer. That, of course, is done for a specific reason which, I am certain, you will get it too.

To conclude, in the world of social networks, comments are meant to be read. This is why it’s important to be considerate, respectful, and mindful when we begin composing our thoughts. Because what we say may hurt feelings, it can upset someone, break families, and even kill. “The Columnist” does not hesitate in explaining that going beyond our comprehension by offering the reality that can be considered the worst case scenario but a very possible one too if one decides to call it quits.

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