Swedish TV hit shines light on Sami peo­ple

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

Mid­night Sun”, Swe­den’s new block­buster crime se­ries, has drawn praise for its bloody tale of Arc­tic Cir­cle mur­der but also con­cern over the por­trayal of the in­dige­nous Sami peo­ple who are its stars. The first sea­son, which wrapped up ear­lier this month, fol­lows a duo of French and Swedish po­lice of­fi­cers in­ves­ti­gat­ing the killing of a French­man in Kiruna, a La­p­land out­post whose tun­dra land­scape is dom­i­nated by a mas­sive iron mine.

The Sami have lived for mil­len­nia in those frozen lands, ar­riv­ing in waves of set­tlers from Asia with herds of rein­deer that have re­mained their liveli­hood gen­er­a­tions hence. The ten­sions with the Scan­di­na­vians who ar­rived much later and went on to dom­i­nate them is the con­stant back­drop to “Mid­night Sun’s” dark po­lice tale. The ten­sions per­sist today be­cause north­ern Swe­den is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an eco­nomic boom due to min­eral min­ing, wind farms and ex­ten­sive log­ging, which are en­croach­ing more and more upon rein­deer graz­ing grounds.

“There is sig­nif­i­cant dis­crim­i­na­tion against the Sami, and things are get­ting worse be­cause of the pres­sure put on the (north­ern) ter­ri­to­ries by min­ing and other in­dus­tries,” said Olivier Truc, au­thor of the best­selling Arc­tic thriller “Forty Days With­out Shadow”. For the Sami, then, see­ing their por­trayal on Swe­den’s small screen is both a source of pride and con­cern, with their lit­tle-known in­dige­nous cul­ture writ large - and not al­ways ac­cu­rately. “The ex­pec­ta­tions were im­mense, and over­all, they were dis­ap­pointed,” said Lars-Ola Marakatt, a ra­dio jour­nal­ist for a Sami lan­guage sta­tion who polled other Sami view­ers.

‘Bru­tal and quiet’

Some of those in­ter­viewed bashed “Mid­nattssol”, as it is known in Swedish, for fail­ing to re­pro­duce the north­ern Swedish ac­cent, mis­rep­re­sent­ing the na­ture of lo­cal dis­putes and draw­ing a broad and blunt por­trait of the Sami spirit and tra­di­tions. Peter Paa­jarvi, a 49-year-old high school teacher in Kiruna, ob­jected to see­ing north­ern Swedes de­scribed as “bru­tal and quiet”. “It looks like they wanted to cre­ate a stereo­type,” he told AFP. Marakatt said the show’s well-in­ten­tioned screen­writ­ers “have done too much in terms of ped­a­gogy and ex­pla­na­tions” - per­haps as a nod to the for­eign au­di­ence of “Mid­night Sun”.

The se­ries is a co­pro­duc­tion of Swe­den’s pub­lic broad­caster SVT and France’s Canal Plus, and air­ing in both coun­tries, while broad­cast rights have been sold for sev­eral other coun­tries. But many Sami also take pride in com­ing in from the cold in Swedish pop­u­lar cul­ture. “There is a real pride in the Sami who for the first time find them­selves at the cen­ter of a su­per-pro­duc­tion,” said Marakatt.

And for rein­deer herder Mar­gret Fjell­strom, crit­ics should re­call a key fact: “It’s fic­tion”. “They de­liver a clear mes­sage that Sapmi (La­p­land in the Sami lan­guage) has been ex­ploited for hun­dreds of years while it re­ally be­longs to the Sami,” she said. Fjell­strom dis­missed wor­ries the Sami would be type­cast as venge­ful blood­let­ters - a con­cern of some in the north, “no doubt, be­cause of ev­ery­thing we have suf­fered”. — AFP

(From left) Di­rec­tor Bjorn Stein, di­rec­tor Mans Mar­lind, ac­tress Leila Behkti and ac­tor Gustaf Ham­marsten pose dur­ing a presser for the new TV-se­ries Mid­nattssol (Mid­night Sun) in Stock­holm on Sept 27, 2016. —AFP

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