Watch The Trailer
Storyline (warning: spoilers)
Opening the Scandinavian Film Festival 2023 in Perth, Let the River Flow, centres around a woman finding her cultural and personal identity through Sámi (the native people of Scandinavia) protests in late 1970s Norway.
Sámi musician and actress Ella Marie Hætta Isaksen plays Ester, who is struggling with her own youthful identity, torn between her familial responsibilities and teaching job. Added to this is her Sámi cultural identity crisis, usually kept under wraps by her family, and brought into her life suddenly by her cousin Mihkkal (Gard Emil). Mihkkal lives more openly with his Sámi heritage, including traditional dress and customs, and brings Ester to participate in a large protest to stop the government from damming a river and flooding traditional Sámi land.
Ester and her newfound Sámi protest group go through all of the ups and downs associated, from bonding through their history and culture, to hunger strikes and police intervention. For every moment of hope, there is always their creeping dread of the ultimate, tragic, denial of what is rightfully theirs. Let the River Flow doesn’t pull punches detailing the impact that its examined issues have on the Sámi people, a conflict that is still ongoing to this day.
The central conflicts of the film; identity, family, culture, are universal, but the central issue of Indigenous peoples’ rights is all too relevant in Australian society. The parallel between the dam and Some rights with the Indigenous Voice to Parliament Referendum vote is hard to deny.
Let the River Flow ironically moves a little slowly, but does a good job over its 2 hour run time to introduce unknowing audiences to Sámi culture, history and issues. Along with Isaksen’s captivating and emotional performance, the scenery of Norway is on show here, with gorgeous cinematography and lingering landscape shots to add to the depth of Ester’s personal journey.