Birds in the Earth is a short film based on dance, telling a bit of a melancholic story about Sámi people´s rights in today´s Finland, the Sámi being the indigenous people of Northern Europe. The story is told through the dance performances of two young Sámi sisters, Birit and Katja Haarla.
Interview with Writer/Director/Producer Marja Helander
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
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 Scandinavia and Russia. I was interested in combining the strict and disciplined art form of ballet with the wild arctic nature to show the contradiction between Sámi people and the state of Finland, concerning the ownership of the land and sovereignty of Sámi people.
I also wanted to incorporate themes such as the continuity of the traditional reindeer herding as a livelihood and the borderline between youth and adulthood which was realized in the beautiful performances of our dancers. In a work of art, there should be something unexplainable, some space for free association. At the bottom of the film there are also some old Sámi myths.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
This film is very visual and beautiful, with graceful ballet dance performances of two young dancers. You will see stunning views from the North of Finland, with some humor also included. During the film you can hear special Sámi singing style; joik. Overall, the film takes you to another place, to an arctic indigenous land.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
I wanted to make a film about my people and the question of the ownership of the land in the area where my ancestors have lived for hundreds and thousands of years. In the mountains and rivers the film speaks also at more universal levels. These questions are common to all indigenous people, and also the question of the land is very current right now in the bigger global scale. Who has the rights to govern the land?
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
At the start of the production, we (our crew) didn't have a concrete screenplay. During the shoots, the structure of the film was developed with collaboration and free association. We had a really small film crew, which made the filming situations flexible. But we had to keep the upcoming editing process in mind, in order to be able to cut fluently from one movement to another.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Very good. People have appreciated the beauty and the melancholy of the film.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Not really. There are some parts which I have not "explained", so it is always interesting to know how people interpret those scenes. On the other hand it has been nice to see how people have liked this film. Yourself, when you see it so many times in the edit room, you somehow "lost" a bit of the feeling at some point.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
Well, more screenings and more people to be able to watch the film. Also would be nice to get to know possible collaborators for the future, like producers, for example.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Heh, well maybe all of them except producers at this point.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
Having a calming and comforting effect to the viewer through the music and the visual language of the film. Secondly raising some ecological and political questions about the land.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Indigenous rights, land, ecological and cultural questions.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I have started a new short film. The cinematographer has done some music videos, and the dancers are graduating from the Ballet School of the Finnish National Opera and Ballet.
Interview: January 2019
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Birds in the Earth
Birds in the Earth is a short film based on dance, telling a bit of a melancholic story about Sámi people´s rights in today´s Finland, the Sámi being the indegenous people of Northern Europe. The story is told through the dance performances of two young Sámi sisters, Birit and Katja Haarla.
Director: Marja Helander
Producer: Marja Helander
Writer: Marja Helander
About the writer, director and producer:
MARJA HELANDER (b.1965) is a Sámi photographic and media artist from Finland, the Sámi people being the indigenous people of Scandinavia and Russia. Helander’s recent photographic work has focused on Northern landscape. The accent of the work is on the postcolonial topics in the Sámi area, focusing particularly on the global mining industry. On the other hand, her short movies are playful, exploring the contradiction between the traditional Sámi way of life and the modern society.
Key cast: Birit Haarla (dance, choreography), Katja Haarla (dance, choreography)
Looking for: distributors, journalists, buyers, film festival directors
Funders: Kone Foundation, International Sámi Film Institute, Arts Promotion Centre Finland, Self-funded
Made in association with: RinneRadio
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? "Sundance Film Festival 2019 / Park City, Utah - Saturday, January 26 at 6:00 PM, Temple Theatre (Park City); Sunday, January 27 at 10:00 PM, Redstone Cinema 2 (Park City); Monday, January 28 at 3:00 PM, Broaday Centre Cinema 6 (Salt Lake City); Thursday, January 31 at 5:30 PM; Egyptian Theatre (Park City); Telemark Art Center / Liegata 8, 3717 Skien, Norway - exhibition ""Matters at Heart"" 26.01. -16.03.2019