At the top of world, across the northernmost reaches of Finland, Sweden, Norway and Western Russia are the lands of Sápmi – the homelands of the Sámi people. In January, Māoriland’s Through Our Lens travelled a roopu of rangatahi filmmakers to Inari where they would deliver a rangatahi filmmaking workshop ahead of the Skabmagovat Film Festival. The roopu, led by Madeleine de Young – Māoriland’s Kaiwhakahau Hōtaka, Aree Kapa (Kairuruku and Libby Hakaraia (Tumu Whakarae) consisted of Ōtaki’s Oriwa Hakaraia, Kate Rennie Penese (Hokianga), Luke Moss (Te Kuīti) and Ngato Zharnaye Livingstone (Whangarei).
In the lead to our departure, we were filled with trepidation as we watched the weather reports of -30 to -40 degrees!!! For the majority of our group this would be the farthest they have ever been from home travelling first to Hong Kong, then to Frankfurt, on to Helsinki, then Ivalo and finally Inari in far Northern Finland.
Driving from Ivalo to Inari was surreal – we cruised down pitch-black roads as snow fell outside glimmering in the headlights, it felt as if we were about to jump into hyperspace. In the light of the morning, stepping out into the snow was akin to wandering into a Hotel Wonderland – a cinema-scape too beautiful and unknown to be true. Inari is also synonymous with the Northern Lights.
Our Through Our Lens workshop was part of Skábmagovat, the annual international Sámi film festival. We made three films over two days with ten rangatahi Sámi ranging in age from 11 to 25.
These films screened at the festival alongside the NATIVE Slam films made during Māoriland Film Festival 2019 and Bub – our first professional rangatahi short, made by Oriwa Hakaraia and Te Mahara Tamehana in 2019. Bub screened at the snow cinema , a large open air cinema carved out of ice where the audience sits on reindeer pelts watching the films on a large ice screen!!
It has been a dream of Māoriland to bring our rangatahi to Sápmi for filmmaking workshops connecting the next generation of Indigenous storytellers through film. This is part of our rangatahi strategy including the E Tū Whānau Rangatahi Filmmaking workshops in NZ to the Māoriland festival team of Ngā Pakiaka and the pathway to paid professional creative work.
For rangatahi wanting to get involved in this kaupapa, the best way is to attend E Tū Whānau Rangatahi Film Workshops.
The incredible films made in Taiwan and Finland will premiere at the Māoriland Film Festival 2020 Remount. We hope to see you there.
Through our Lens is a Māoriland initiative connecting the next generation of Indigenous storytellers through film. It was launched in 2017 as a new way to both empower our young people and forge new relationships within our Indigenous world. Fourteen Rangatahi Māori were selected from across Aotearoa to lead filmmaking workshops in Samoa, Hawai’i, Tahiti and Rarotonga making ten films in total. We decided to begin in the Pacific – Te Moananui a Kiwa to reforge our ancestral links with the peoples of those lands. In 2018 we then returned to Rarotonga and Aitutaki further strengthening those connections.
Sápmi, the Indigenous name for the lands of the Sámi people, was my home for two weeks. From the warming, spine tingling sound of joik’ing, that felt ever so spiritually familiar, to the bright contrasting kaakahu that clothed our tuakana from the Northa, each day felt like a movie. A journey of discovery! Learning about the tikanga and kawa of the lands, the creation story of the world from a Northern lens, the different kaitiaki of the land, and how the northern lights and the stars above are the biggest movie screen of all. But like any good film it wasn’t as easy as the main character had hoped (DUN DUN DUUUN!) With a 12 hour time difference and only 4 hours of sunlight a day, lets just say it was hard to adjust! The workshop was a rollercoaster in itself and for me was the biggest challenge, working with four rangatahi that had little English was touuughhhhh! Heres me doing a young mihi in te reo maaori, you know the old “ka tangi te titi, ka tangi te kaka” sorta buzz, then I flip to english, whip out the old “Hello everyone, how are we going today?!?!?” and holly hacka, you could’ve heard a snowflake drop, as I quickly realised that most of the rangatahi would have had a better chance of mauri ora’ing my tihei then understanding fully what I was saying. With microphone batteries dying in seconds, cameras at the brink of freezing point, and the youth trying to understand my made up sign language it made for the best film workshop that I have ever been apart of! The struggles of the cold and the challenges of language enabled the connection of two Indigenous iwi from the opposite side of the world, enabling us Indigenous rangatahi tell our stories, through our lens!
I was asked if this was a once in a lifetime opportunity? At first my instant answer would obviously have been yes. Never have I ever thought I’d be traveling halfway around the world to experience, share and create Indigenous stories! But my answer was No, this was not once in a lifetime because I know I will return. Because.. The Tundra… it calls me…
I’ve been staring at the edge of the Tundra, for as long as I can remember, never really knowing why…
I thought it was fitting to end my story like this as many times the Saami youth would be speaking there reo while looking at me, I wouldn’t understand any word they said except for one… “Maui” … and then they would giggle!
Until we meet again my friends of Ngai Sámi,
Turou, turou, turou Hawaiki!
Kate Rennie Penese
Watch the films made in Sápmi…
Through Our Lens is premiering online!
Ngā Pakiaka will take you behind the scenes of each workshop before premiering the films made in each location.
Through Our Lens Sápmi was made possible with the support of HTK Group Ltd, International Sámi Film Institute, Skabmagovat, NZ Film Commission and Screenrights.