SAMI BLOOD (2016, Amanda Kernell)
A coming-of-age tale, set against the background of cultural prejudice and racism. The Sami are the indigenous Finno-Ugric people living in Sapmi - in English known as Lapland - the arctic region stretching four nations, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Sami Blood is set in Sweden, in the 1930s (the story is presented as a flashback, bookended by two smaller sequences set in the present). If you thought the Swedes and Sami lived in perfect harmony, you might think differently after watching this movie.
The central characters are two Sami girls, Ella-Marja and Njella, who choose to follow different paths in life. Njella, the youngest of the two, feels one hundred percent Sami and rejects all things Swedish, Ella-Marja want to integrate into society and forget about her Sami roots as much as possible.
The first half vaguely resembles the Australian movie Rabbit Proof Fence (the girls are taken away from home and brought to a so-called Nomad school, a primary school for Sami children), the second half concentrates more on Ella-Marja’s difficulties to become ‘Swedish’. While the first half is by no means as devastating and hard-hitting as Rabbit Proof Fence, it works quite well; the girls are endearing and they act very well, but the second half, with Ella-Marja running away from the Nomad school and trying her luck in Swedish society, is far less convincing; some of the plot twists feel far-fetched and the ending leaves too many things unsaid.
Sami Blood was well-received on a couple of film festivals (I saw it on a film festival too), but probably more for what it suggests than what it actually says about its interesting premise. It’s well-meant and never boring, but in the end it’s too inconclusive.