‘Kings Bay’ film a lesson in ethics.

‘Kings Bay’ film a lesson in ethics.


Kings Bay looks a winter-time treat for any fan of the Northern Lights but crime, corruption and corporate greed play heavily in a fictitious media company in Tromsø.

Office politics and use of information technology including mobile phones can have dire consequences for journalists and researchers working in the field. One film recently released as part of the 2017 Scandinavian Film Festival in Australia provides timely lessons for field workers of the need to take seriously their personal safety and security when working.

The film Kings Bay is directed by Stig Svendsen and is a classic Nordic thriller about 1.5 hours long. It stars Norwegian singer turned actor Kari Bremnes as journalist Harrieth ‘Hari’ Hansen, Kim Sørensen as the News Editor, and Kristian Figenschow as the Editor-in-Chief.

Kings BayNone of the characters are particularly likeable except if you work with journalists, editors, researchers, sound archivists, historians, intelligence officers, geologists, linguists, political scientists or international relations experts. Only then would you appreciate where the film characters are coming from. The protagonists are stuck in a toxic work culture in the middle of winter with no way out but to submit to the deceptive practices of a corrupt newspaper company.

The film’s plot is complex. After a series of back-stabbing office politics set in bar-rooms and morning meetings, a journalist finds herself covering what appears to be a mine accident to redeem herself in the eyes of her employers. But as she digs further into the case, she discovers the incident is far more complex and dangerous than could ever have been anticipated.

‘Hari’ Hansen who starts digging into the 50 year old case. She receives several ‘drops’ of old Russian tape recordings, photographs and newspaper clippings to tempt her to take on the case.

She begins her research and after several twists and turns asks “What if the mine incident wasn’t an accident?” As part of the investigation, a competitive younger colleague, a university professor, and ageing former intelligence operative provide support and resources to journalist Hari.

The film is set between Kings Bay and Tromsø (with the stunning Northern Lights and mountainous backdrop) near Svalbard archipelago. It is in the northernmost part of the Kingdom of Norway. The area was also known to cartographers, geologists, whalers and mariners as Kongsfjorden or Kongs Fjord. The English translation of the place name used by English whalers in 17th century was ‘Kings Bay’.

The Kings Bay incident is based on real events that occurred in 1962, when a mine explosion killed 21 people. The resulting scandal, known as the ‘Kings Bay Affair’, brought down the Norwegian Labour Party.  The film suggests that the inlet area is a strategic geographic location for iron ore sought after by the Russian government and American government for use with military warfare.

Kings Bay is part of an emerging school of Norwegian Noir-style film that makes use of the Northern Hemisphere’s winter setting to create mood and intrigue. The film is evocative and moving.

Winds from the Arctic Ocean almost seep into a film goer’s seat as they watch a determined journalists take on research tasks in libraries, universities and sound recording studios to unearth facts from fiction in this saga.

Her employers’ lack of recognition of their ‘duty of care’ to employees in the field is clear. For example, insider trading practices by others and the use of alcohol to sabotage colleagues and competitors are evident. Hari’s willingness, as a journalist, to take personal risks to investigate the case is remarkable. At no point in the film do her journalistic colleagues or employers mention work health and safety (WHS) matters or seek to protect her from workplace violence.

Kings Bay has a startling ending. It provides a timely lesson when working in the field of why using technological devices – especially mobile phones – can be foolhardy.

Text copyright by Dr Fiona Rothchilds
Photographs from the Film Company and online sources.
Posted 06 August 2017

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