With a face hardened by years of hurt, chain-smoking Lida carries the weight of a life defined by the shame and marginalization directed at her as a Sámi woman in contemporary Finland. Though strangers, she sets out alongside niece Sanna to clear out their long-held family home in preparation for its sale. Lida’s instinct to burn anything and everything connected to her past is quickly overcome by memories of a warm childhood spent fishing with a loving grandfather; of railing against the boarding school that tried to beat the Sámi identity out of her; and of being a young woman whose only option was a marriage that could take her far away from her Native roots. Lida finds herself facing a powerful reckoning with her past and a quiet reclaiming of her true self: Je’vida.
Filmed in black and white, director and co-writer (with Niillas Holmberg) Katja Gauriloff has crafted a film of stark, powerful beauty — the first ever to be filmed in the Skolt Sámi dialect, only spoken by roughly 300 people. Centered by a searing and unforgettable performance by Agafia Niemenmaa, Je’vida is a lyrical testament to the bonds of ancestry and the resilience of Native peoples.––Cedar Sherbert