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Sami Blood

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Arizona

The powerful drama Sami Blood explores the Scandinavian variant of a shameful practice employed by self-proclaimed “civilized” (i.e., white) nations around the world in the 19th and 20th centuries: the systematic removal of Indigenous children from their parents, homes, and traditional lifestyles and forced integration into an educational system that taught them that their customs and lifestyles were inferior at best.
Elle Marja (Lene Cecilia Sparrok) is a teenage Sami girl in the 1930’s who is sent to a boarding school that is intended to raise its Indigenous charges to a level “acceptable” to the rest of Swedish society. Curious and excited, Elle Marja at first excels in her new surroundings, mastering the Swedish language and her other lessons while her younger sister, Njenna, struggles. But this very success, coupled with Elle Marja’s intense desire to be accepted by her teachers, her internalization of the school’s vile lessons about race and class, and her burgeoning sexuality, soon drives a wedge between her and her fellow students, forcing her to take an action she may not have the opportunity to regret. Director Amanda Kernell’s debut feature has all the anger and indignation one should expect from a drama centered on such appalling events, but it’s also a brilliant character study, showing how this kind of officially sanctioned abuse insidiously attacks the minds of its victims as well as their bodies. (Dir. by Amanda Kernell, 2016, Sweden/Norway/Denmark, in Swedish/Saami with English subtitles, 110 mins., Not Rated)

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