Elle Marja, 14, is a reindeer-breeding Sami girl. Exposed to the racism of the 1930s and race biology examinations at her boarding school, she starts dreaming of another life. To achieve this, Elle Marja has to become someone else and break all ties with her family and culture.
This film is not currently playing on MUBI but 30 other great films are. See what’s now showing
An intriguing film about the long-term impacts of assimilationist policies, propelled by the obscene 20th century 'science' of eugenics. Loathing her objectification as an ethnic curiosity, Elle-Marja elects to fold herself into mainstream Swedish life, in the process losing her link to her community. Lene Sparrok is entirely convincing as a girl forced to make a societal choice she shouldn't ever have had to make.
This film gripped me as a story of one person's journey in the face of hatred and racism against the indigenous Sami people. So much loss and grief and devastation. And strength and force of will. This film is made with a keen eye for the discomfort and obliviousness of members of a dominant culture. Brilliantly acted; beautifully shot, courageously written.
Seamlessly written and compellingly directed by Amanda Kernell, who causes a very much positive impression in her debut feature, “Sami Blood” is a tale of rebellion, ambition, perseverance, and forgiveness, told with a Scandinavian tranquility and sustained by a top-quality performance by the young newcomer Lene Cecilia Sparrok. (3.5 stars)
Stunning. The moment when her ear is cut was brilliantly filmed: she mirrors the reindeer who stops struggling and lays with blank eyes. So sad to learn about yet another culture that suffered due to the eugenics movement's ability to pseudo-scientifically reinforce the racism of the dominant Swedish culture. The lead is a force of nature; her steadfast determination is present even in her silence.
Sami Blood mostly reminded me of the wealth of perspectives that cinema still has to show us. Not only the Sami people of who I knew nothing, but the way Elle Marja's story, writ in pain, defied the reconciliation narrative that is usually the template. And because of Sparrok's giving and vulnerable performance, the way we feel her desire as both empowering and tragic.
I was lazy viewer the first time I saw this film, but I came back to it a year later and this time I was paying attention. Yoiking made sense to me the second time around, and it's critical to the Sami culture. And to the film. Well done and with no sledgehammers on the filmmaker's part -- she lets the viewers put the pieces together for themselves.
Sameblod should be obligatory watching in the Nordic countries, so that we too can face our unpleasant past. But it’s not just educational film about racism, Sameblod is as much a coming-of-age story, a quest for identity and all the painful issues that it carries with it (of course in this case as a part of an oppressed minority). Kernell’s film succeeds as a combination of social and personal history.