Not All Stories Have Dialogue. Here’s One You Can Watch and Dance To…

Published on January 26, 2019

In today’s political and legal atmosphere, it’s the perfect time to re-examine what it means to own a piece of property or observe individual rights.

Similar to the culturally renown silent film, BarakaBirds in the Earth is an indigenous short film based on dance, youth, and experimental storytelling without dialogue. The film studies the situation of the Sámi culture in Finland. Sámis are the indigenous people of Northern Europe and Russia. The main characters are two young Sámi sisters and dance students Birit and Katja Haarla. The movie tells a story through their dance performances, while examining the deeper questions of the ownership of Sámi land.

Birit and Katja dance through the villages and lost woods of Finnish Lapland, which historically used to be part of Sámi land. Eventually the girls arrive in the capital of Finland, where the important decisions are made, decisions concerning also Sámi people. At the same time, the film examines the deeper questions about the ownership of land and the rights of the indigenous people in today’s world. The polarity of Nature and the Western way of life is filtered through sharp humor.

Walking Two Moons in the Director’s Shoes

Birds in the Earth was born out of my interest in making a film about my people, the Sámi people who are the indigenous people of northwestern Norway, Sweden, Russia, and my own home Finland,” Director Marja Helander commented.

“I knew these two indigenous dancers and had this early artistic vision of them dancing the ballet choreography ”dying swan” in front of the Finnish parliament house. Then idea evolved to them dancing, additionally, on arctic mountains and villages in the north of Finland, the ancestral home of the Sámi people…in a work of art, there should be something unexplainable, some space for free association. As an artist and as a filmmaker it’s interesting not only to make well thought out scenes with a narrative structure, but also give opportunity to chance, and with that, find some unexpected interpretations, even from the final film. During the shoots, the structure of the film was developed with collaboration, free association and intuition. In this way, and in the issues I confront, the film is both a work of narrative and documentary forms.”

Birds In the Earth screened in the international narrative shorts competition today at Sundance Film Festival in Utah. It also won two prizes at the 2018 Tampere Film Festival in Finland: the Risto Jarva Prize and the Main Prize in the under 30 minute category in the National Competition.

Andrew "Drew" Rossow is a former contract editor at Grit Daily.

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