Written and directed by Amanda Kernell, and based on the life of her grandmother, this debut film explores the life of Elle-Marja, a 14 year-old indigenous Sami girl (also know as Lapps) who lives in Northern Scandinavia and herds reindeer with her family. When she and her younger sister are forced to attend a Swedish-speaking boarding school, for the first time Elle-Marja experiences the racism and prejudice directed at her heritage and culture that existed in 1930’s Sweden. The Sami children at the special school are routinely exposed to the humiliation of race biology exams, measured like animals, and put on display for visitors.
As Elle-Marja dares to dream of furthering her education, her teacher, whom she idolizes, tells her that the brains of Lapps are smaller and incapable of achieving such a dream. It is her duty “to go back home so her people so their way of life won’t die out.” Faced with returning to this life to which she no longer relates, Elle-Marja denies her heritage, turns her back on her family and changes her name. She flees to Uppsala and tries to pass as Swedish, where she is discovered and humiliated.
Many years pass before Elle-Marja returns to the magnificent steppes of her homeland with her son and grand-daughter to face what she has lost by breaking ties with family, tradition and culture in a culminating – and breath-taking – apotheosis in the magnificent landscape of her homeland.
The film’s director, Amanda Kernell, will be present for the Festival.