Movie Review: SAMI BLOOD

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sami blood posterWriter/Director Amanda Kernell’s first feature is a gripping  coming of age drama based on the real life experiences of her grandmother. Set in Sweden during the 1930s, at a time when Eugenics theories about ethnic superiority were trending, the narrative follows teenage Elle-Marje as she is plucked from her semi-nomadic family of traditional Sami reindeer herders in Lapland and sent to a Swedish boarding school to be assimilate into the predominant Swedish social structure and culture  — in which Samis were considered to be ethnically inferior and relegated to menial labor.

At the behavior modification school, Elle-Marje, her younger sister Njenna and the other Sami children are thrashed for speaking Sami, stripped naked for biological testing and subjected to strict regulations and ongoing humiliation that dehumanizes them. Those who don’t acquiesce are punished severely.

Despite the prejudice, Elle-Marje is an avid student, tops in her class. the apple of her Swedish teacher’s eye. She hopes her respect and affection for her teacher is returned, but eventually realizes that all of her desperate efforts to fit in are for naught.

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She runs away and, hiding her Sami heritage, changes her name to Christina and enrolls in a regular Swedish girls school, where her personal ethnic identity crisis is exacerbated by her having to deal with additional issues of ordinary adolescent angst.

That the film is framed in a way that allows us to see Elle-Marje/Christina coming to grips with the long-term effects of her split ethnicity/identity makes the narrative all the more compelling, affecting and enlightening.

Beautifully crafted with exceptionally skilled storytelling, spectacular cinematography, flawless editing, and stunning lead performances by first-time actresses and real life sisters Lene Cecilia Sparrok as Elle-Marje and Mia Erika Sparrok as her sister, Njenna, Sami Blood garnered critical acclaim and prizes at Sundance, TIFF, Berlinale, Venice and other film festivals.

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Sami Blood‘s harrowing herstory addresses prejudice against the Sami people and culture in the same way Philip Noyce’s compelling Rabbit Proof Fence (2002) shed light on the cruel –but unfortunately not unusual — treatment of Aboriginals in Australia.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sami Blood is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week (#MOTW) for June 2 – 9, 2017.


Title: Sami Blood

Director: Amanda Kernell

Release Date: June 2, 2017

Running Time: 110 minutes

Language: Sami and Swedish, with English subtitles.

Principal Cast: Lene Cecilia Sparrok, Mia Erika Sparrok, Maj-Doris Rimpi

Screenwriter: Amanda Kernell

Production Company: Bautafilm

Distribution Company: Synergetic Distribution


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