Let The River Flow

Let the River Flow

Norway | 2023 | 118 min. | Ole Giæver (Sámi)

The Alta Conflict, a series of protests in 1970s-’80s Norway regarding a hydroelectric power plant that would flood Indigenous land, is the setting of this gutting historical drama centering on a teacher who unintentionally becomes part of the Sámi revolution.

Ester is a young substitute schoolteacher in the northern Norwegian town of Alta who hides a deep secret from her students. She is Sámi, the native people of Scandinavia, but she keeps her identity hidden to blend in with the townsfolk. It is 1979, a time in Norway when Sámi people could still be mocked openly as "lapps"—a pejorative shorthand for "hicks." Ester (Elle Marie Hætta Isaksen) wears her assimilation uneasily, but not so her activist cousin Mihkkal (Gard Emil), who proudly embraces his roots. Mihkkal convinces Ester to join a demonstration against a gigantic government plan to dam the local river for hydroelectric power. Initially concerned about the environmental costs, Ester is emotionally shaken when she discovers the artificial lake would submerge an entire Sámi village. The protests stir a cultural awakening inside Ester, and she begins participating in increasingly daring acts of civil disobedience, eventually leading to human blockades and riots. Director Ole Giæver effectively uses the fictional eyes of Ester to convey the outrage of the true-life Alta Dam conflict that helped expose Norway's long, dark history of oppression over its indigenous people. Isaksen, who is a celebrated Sámi musician in real life, portrays Ester in her first-ever acting role, bringing a steely personal edge of authenticity to the role of a woman evolving from timid conformer to proud protector of a threatened way of life. Winning awards at both Tromsø and Göteborg this year, Let the River Flow is a sad yet triumphant story of an indigenous spirit that refuses to fade away.

Randy Woods

  • Original Language Title: Ellos eatnu – La elva leve
  • Director: Ole Giæver (Sámi)
  • Principal Cast: Ella Marie Haetta Isaksen, Gard Emil, Sofia Jannok, Beaska Niillas, Marie Kvernmo
  • Premiere Status: North American
  • Country: Norway, Sweden
  • Year: 2023
  • Running Time: 118 min.
  • Producer: Maria Ekerhovd
  • Screenplay: Ole Giæver
  • Cinematographers: Marius Matzow Gulbrandsen
  • Editors: Wibecke Rønseth
  • Music: Ola Fløttum
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Awards: Göteborg Film Festival 2023 (Audience Award, FIPRESCI Prize), Tromsø International Film Festival 2023 (Audience Award)
  • Filmography: From the Balcony (2017), Out of Nature (2015), The Mountain (2011), Sommerhuset (2008)
  • Language: Sámi, Norwegian
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • International Sales: Beta Cinema