Same Blood, Different Heart

[This first appeared at The Jagged Word on January 26.]

[SPOILERS]

Sami Blood (Sameblod) is the one film I missed at the 2017 Newport Beach Film Festival that I’ve been waiting to see. It’s finally been released for streaming on Google Play and iTunes, and I wasn’t disappointed. Though I’m nearly 100% of German ancestry (as far as I know), I will watch anything that comes from Ireland or Scandinavia. (As I’ve mentioned before, Scandinavian crime dramas are at the top of my list: see the Department Q films on Netflix, of which the newest one is under production. And though The Snowman—which I’ve not seen—did not get good reviews, the Harry Hole books by Jo Nesbø are excellent.)

I was only superficially aware of the Sami people in northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and part of Russia. So I didn’t know about the prejudice and racism to which they were subjected (always called “Laplanders” or “Lapps” by the Swedes in the film). The film is the story, primarily, of two sisters (played by real-life sisters Lene Cecilia and Mia Erika Sparrok) who attend a boarding school for Sami children, where they learn to speak “proper Swedish,” and are compelled to undergo humiliating examination of their facial and bodily features, which seem to parallel some of the attempts to assimilate Native peoples in the United States.

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Necessary Horror

[This first appeared at The Jagged Word on January 12.]

Dunkirk should rightfully take its place among the greatest of war films ever made (and I wish I had taken the opportunity to see it in its intended fullness on the big screen). It deserves the awards it has coming. The plot is not as straightforward as it initially seems, combining one week of soldiers trying to escape the beach at Dunkirk, one day of civilian ships rescuing those soldiers, and one hour of air battle.

There are movies that glorify heroism in war; there are movies that expose the absurdity of war; and there are movies that break the mold of what war movies can be. Dunkirk is that sort of film. If it weren’t for the intensity of Hans Zimmer’s score and the occasional burst of gunfire, the beauty of this film could lull you into reverie. In this way, it is much more The Thin Red Line than Saving Private Ryan. The music builds and falls back, rises and hums, without taking over or being repetitious. I watched it twice, and was more impressed the second time. In fact, it probably requires a second viewing to see—like a good book—everything that Christopher Nolan has seamlessly fit together.

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