Sami Blood – can you ever not be who you are?

Lene Cecilia Sparrok in Sami Blood

Sami Blood is the story of a woman who spent her entire life trying to hide and escape from her Sami heritage. It’s set in Sweden, where the indigenous people of the area, the Sami, are treated as less than by the Swedes. The film is streaming on Prime Video.

All the Sami characters in the Sami Blood are played by authentic Sami actors. The film was written and directed by Amanda Kernell, who is also of Sami heritage.

Maj-Doris Rimpi in Sami Blood

The story begins in 2016, with Elle Marja/Christina (Maj-Doris Rimpi) called to her sister’s funeral. She doesn’t want to go, doesn’t want to see her family. She’s lived her life passing as a Swedish teacher.

Lene Cecilia Sparrok and Mia Erika Sparrok in Sami Blood
Elle Marja and Njenna in boarding school

At the funeral, we flash back to the 1930s when Elle Marja (Lene Cecilia Sparrok) and her sister Njenna (Mia Erika Sparrok) were sent away to boarding school. The teachers and the people around the school all treated the children as disgusting and stupid. They were humiliated and demeaned in many ways.

Elle Marja was determined to escape from her degrading life. She wanted to be a teacher. She took a teacher’s dress and sneaked off to a dance. There she met Niklas (Julius Fleischanderl). She told him her name was Christina. He told her where he lived in Upsala.

Julius Fleischanderl in Sami Blood

Elle Marja/Christina had courage and determination. She ran away and went to Niklas’ home. She expected to be allowed to stay there. She managed to get into a school but didn’t realize she would have to pay for it.

She was often silent in the face of the world she wanted to penetrate because she didn’t know how to interact with it. If she just stood quietly there she expected people to understand and help. Not everyone did.

There was no giving up for Christina. She was not going to live her life in a traditional village, herding reindeer. She wanted the city, respect, a life as a Swede.

During the flashback to the 1930s, and again with Christina at her sister’s funeral we see how hard it was, how much she had to give up, the toll it took on her.

The film was slow and quiet. It was beautiful in many ways. It was familiar in the sense that colonizers everywhere treat indigenous people like this. It was unique in the way Elle Marja responded to it. It isn’t a happy film and not everyone will love it. A Wikipedia article about the film provides a lot of background information, but also spoilers for the movie. If you’re interested in learning more, read it after you see the film.

The poster for Sami Blood

Perhaps the trailer will help you decide if this is a film you’ll enjoy.

Have you watched this film? What did you think of it?

3 thoughts on “Sami Blood – can you ever not be who you are?”

  1. I did enjoy this film. Very poignant and universal in that this could speak to Native Americans, Indigenous Australians, Maori, and even the small town boy or girl who wants to see more of the world. A side note, I was struck by how much Lene Cecilia Sparrok resembles Greta Thunberg.

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