Midnight Sun: Let’s Talk about Ethnicity!

The new Nordic Noir hit Midnight Sun (Midnattssol in Swedish) follows the well-known recipe of the genre (e.g. showcasing the troubled private life of the investigators, dismantling of the welfare state, strong female leads, etc.), and shares a lot of similarities with The Bridge. Of course, this is barely surprising, since Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein had worked on the latter as writers, still, with their new series they embarked on a more pretentious journey. They not only connect two countries with an unusual murder but also aim at drawing attention to five ethnic groups (the Swedes, the French, the Sami people, the Berbers and the Kvens). Although they focus more on the tensed relationships between the Swedes and the Sámi people in the town of Kiruna. Their effort should surely be appreciated since the news that the entire town is planned to move in order to gain more access to iron mines located there probably has reached more people around the globe than the resistance (or the existence) of the Sami people – or even the Kvens and Berbers.

Nevertheless, in recent years indigenous groups are mentioned more and more in news coverage; think about the Dakota Access Pipeline project protests, for instance. The turbulent protests in the USA mobilised not only minorities in Sweden but hopefully managed to start a discussion on minority rights among a wider public. The focus of this year’s Gothenburg International Film Festival was Sami film – and the award for the Best Nordic film also went to Amanda Kernell’s Sámi Blood (Sameblod), a film that shows the struggles of a Sámi girl. Based on these events it might be concluded that talking about minorities and showing their stories are ‘finally trendy’, which really is a great deal, and the moment must be celebrated, even if it is kind of sad that a ‘trend’ should be set to let the minorities’ voice finally heard.

The lack of or the stereotypical representation of groups – whether we talk about Black, Asian, Muslim actors or female film-makers, etc. – has dominated the dialogue on the film industry lately.  In addition to that, film-makers unquestionably have great a responsibility when depicting the life of minorities whose existence has been forgotten and/or excluded from the public discourse so far.  It’s true that Nordic Noir pieces tend to elaborate on various ethnic groups, however, Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein’s approach is certainly different, and it brings something new to the discussion. Both of their main characters belong to a minority: Anders Harnesk from Kiruna is half-Sámi, Kahina Zadi from Paris is a Berber. Despite their effort though, neither Leïla Bekhti nor Gustaf Hammarsten are representatives of these ethnic groups. However, it must be mentioned that Sámi singers Sofia Jannok and Maxida Märak are given major roles in the TV series.

But is this enough? Probably not, but this is a start. Mårlind and Stein have at least another season to continue the discussion on Sweden, the Sámi people and the complex relationship between the Swedes and the Sámi people. The first season was a short introduction to the Sámi culture and its main characters. Let’s see where the next season goes from here! •

Barbara Majsa

Barbara is a journalist, editor and film critic. She usually does interviews with film-makers, artists, designers, and writes about cinema, design and books.