Staff writer Jonė Juchnevičiūtė gives us an understanding of the LUX prize’s significance in our increasingly globalised world.
Films mirror society: its mindsets, aspirations, and fears. Either based on observation or reflection, films have the power to present our world in a different, often unsettling, way, showing us the side we didn’t know, forgot, or just chose not to see. The difficulties and inconveniences we try to bury and cover don’t cease to exist; while we keep our eyes consciously closed, these issues grow bigger. However, there are artists who do care and are standing with their eyes wide open, trying to wake us from illusory sleep.
These efforts are much appreciated and therefore, the LUX prize is given every year to the film that crosses the boundaries of comfortable topics. It’s been eleven years since the European Parliament launched the LUX prize, bearing in mind that culture is more than solid ground for conversation between different cultures and ideas, which must be given light and way to spread over Europe. Usually, European films, due to the language barriers and distribution difficulties, don’t leave their creators’ countries (barely 8% of European production travel abroad). Thus, our relationship and knowledge of the culture created in other European countries is more restricted than we imagine. However, the European Parliament claims to be committed to culture and tries to bridge this enormous gap. Three films are selected every year and subtitled in all 24 official EU languages. Moreover, their screenings take place simultaneously in many EU countries (unfortunately, not in Scotland) and are followed by the live debates among the audiences. These films are also adapted for people with difficulties of hearing.
On the 15th of November, the LUX award was given to Sami Blood (Sameblod) – Sweden, Norway and Denmark coproduction, directed by Amanda Kernell. The film presents the Sami nation, which today live spread across the northern part of Scandinavia. This ethnic group follows the traditional lifestyle centered on reindeer herding. The enchanting landscapes and fine visual decisions give a film the air of a fairytale, however, it subtly invites the viewer to observe not only the lovely and unique side of Sami’s lifestyle, but to admit the difficulties which ethnic minorities inevitably encounter. Growing up in the tradition which teaches children that they wouldn’t survive in the world which is alien to them, Elle Marja comes up with the idea to flee. But how difficult it is to choose your identity when your origins are treated as unequal to “normal” people and is there any definition of normality? And whether the decision to abandon your home can help? How does the change of location influence personality? These are the thoughts provoked by the film. Having left the cinema, you realize that Sami people aren’t a unique exception, their problem is just an example of the treatment which ethnic minorities face all across the Europe and all across the world, today as much as in the past.
How much can we rely on our nationality and our nationalism; how much does it determine our path? While some nations are subjected to oppression and humiliation, others take pride in being oppressors. It’s interesting that though it’s more tempting to remain blind to problems, film has the ability to make your mind wander and look for an explanation. It provokes thinking which could be defined as very unpleasant, as it reminds us that the world we live in is far from fantasy. And having reached this realization, you can’t deny that cinema has great power. Culture is worth defense because it is so much more than entertainment or heritage; it can provoke people to think and to look around themselves, to open their eyes and to make a change.