"Sami Blood," film by Amanda Kernell, 2016
This film confirms that nearly every indigenous people in the world is or was the victim of extreme oppression by colonialism or white supremacism. Even in the Nordic countries, which had fascist or extreme conservative governments until the socialist labor movements defeated them. The Sami are indigenous reindeer herders who inhabit northern Norway, Sweden and Finland. “Lapland” as they used to say. This film, set in the 1930s in northern Sweden, shows their children being removed from their parents, forbidden the use of the Sami tongue, inculcated in Christianity and abused by Swedes. Sound familiar? It is the same thing that happened to native Americans, Australian aborigines, Brazilian forest people and African tribal children.
Elle-Marja is a 14 year old headstrong Sami girl who sees where her life is heading and makes a break for urban Swedish society. Among other things, a group of ‘racial’ scientists come to the school, maker her stand naked in public and measure her skull. After having her ear notched like a reindeer by some cruel Swedish boys, she runs away from her sister Njenna and her school, heading to the town of Uppsala, Sweden. Key to her transformation is losing the traditional embroidered dress she is made to wear at home and school. In disguise, she borrows, then steals a more modern Swedish dress for a dance, then a frock on a train. She changes her name to Christina to fit in – choosing such a name is not an accident.
In Uppsala everything is strange to Elle-Marja's rural ways. She tries to move in with a young rich boy she met at a party, even offering to be the family’s servant. When his parents say no, she enrolls in a dance school she cannot afford, doing gymnastics she has never done. To get money for the school, she returns home and tries to slaughter the reindeer that were given to her. Her mother gives her a silver buckled belt owned by her father, then turns her back on her. She never sees her sister, mother or village again.
These scenes are all set in flashbacks she remembers as an old white-haired lady returning north for the funeral of her dead sister. Estranged from her relatives and the Sami of the village, at the end she regrets cutting ties with her family, especially her younger sister, and leaving the rural life she could have led.
A quiet, visual film, political without meaning to be so.
Other reviews on Nordic topics: "Viking Economics," "Lenin in Helsinki," "Redbreast," "Age of the Vikings" and "The Vikings."
June 29, 2018