Why do young people join extremist groups? And how do they manage to break free? Several former radicals offer a penetrating look inside the culture of right-wing, left-wing and Islamic extremism in Europe and the United States. Directed by Karen Winther, once a proud member of the Norwegian neo-Nazi’s.
‘Anything dark and dangerous attracted me,’ Karen Winther says at the beginning of the documentary Exit, to explain how she ended up joining a group of neo-Nazi’s when she was 16. Now, twenty-five years later, she looks back at her choices with shame. She wants to find out how other former extremists have managed to change. Have they made peace with themselves? Or will their past haunt them for the rest of their lives?
Many extremist groups are alike, a formerly violent anti-fascist radical from Denmark explains. Whether they are Nazi’s or left-wing or Islamic: ‘They all feel self-righteous about their actions.’ These groups are fuelled by fear and paranoia, encouraging their members to slowly but surely cross more and more boundaries. After having made the brave decision to leave the movement, many ex-members have to deal with regrets about mistakes that can never be unmade. Like the French ex-jihadist David, who says: ‘You think you can change things with violence. But the moment you start using it, violence changes you.’