Marja Helander: Eatnanvuloš Lottit – Birds in the Earth
Eatnanvuloš Lottit – Birds in the Earth (2018) is an award-winning video that merges dance with experimental narrative.
Its protagonists are two young Sámi dance students, Birit and Katja Haarla, who dance across Sámiland all the way to the capital, where decisions are made. While telling a melancholy story of beautiful northern nature, the video also explores deeper issues about the ownership of Sámiland and the rights of the Sámi in present-day Finland. The contrast between the natural world and Western lifestyle is told through northern scenery, the language of ballet, electro jazz by the Rinneradio band, and sharp humour.
“The film got its start from a picture I had in my mind: two girls in Sámi dress dancing the choreography of the Dying Swan on the steps of the Parliament House. One of the impulses was the idea of the lost rights of the Sámi to their lands and waters at a time when Finland was celebrating its centenary of independence. I did not want to make the film simply a political pamphlet, however, but to include lost of images of northern nature and to leave room for interpretation.
I was intrigued to see what would happen when ballet – a highly disciplined artform with traditions going back centuries – is introduced into nature which is perceived as free. I wanted to depict youth, its sensitivity, its stepping onto the threshold to adulthood, also through the fragility of nature. There are several themes in the video, including references to the contrariness of nature and Western lifestyle and to the status of indigenous peoples. But I want the film to function also in terms of visual beauty, humour and free association. It is important to me to achieve a balance between political content and open interpretation. A work of art must also include some empty space, air that you can breathe,” Marja Helander says.
Marja Helander (b. 1965) is a Sámi photographer and video artist as well as film director whose roots are in Helsinki and Utsjoki, Lapland. The focus of her work is often on her own identity on the borderland between Finnish and Sámi culture. Helander has exhibited her work in Finland and internationally. She curated the Mänttä Art Festival in 2019. Birds in the Earth won the Risto Jarva Award at the Tampere Film Festival in 2018 as well as the main prize in the under 30 minute category in the national competition.
Acknowledgements: International Sámi Film Institute (ISFI)/Liisa Holmberg, Kone Foundation, Ministry of Education and Culture, and Arts Promotion Centre Finland.
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