Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Review: Midnight Sun


Midnight Sun
8-part series, currently screening on SBS On Demand

Directed by Marlind & Stein, the team behind Scandi-noir success The Bridge, Midnight Sun follows the investigation of the brutal murder of a French citizen in Kiruna, a small Swedish town in the Arctic Circle where the sun never sets. What ensues is the discovery of a ten-year-old secret conspiracy that no one could ever imagine.

As social media increasingly doesn't provide the entertainment it once did, I've returned to an old companion for amusement. I have started watching television again.

I recently settled in to binge watch a new Scandinavian drama. It had all the elements I expect from a Swedish-Danish-Norwegian-Icelandic police procedural investigating a murder.

Slightly mismatched pair of detectives – check.
Lots of exterior shots – check. The Artic Circle is very picturesque in their warmer months.

And then it became very interesting – riveting in fact. I sent long texts of commentary to my screenwriting friend and without spoiling said, hey, you should see this new series I found on SBS On Demand. It is fascinating.

It features the Sami people in quite a substantial storyline. I’ve been lucky to meet some Sami people during their visits to cultural centres in Australia over the years. I’ve done some research, especially around their representational structures and their parliament.  I discovered they have over 300 words for reindeer.

But I’ve never seen them depicted on a tv drama series.  

The similarities between their Indigenous worldview, their dispossession and negative stereotypes for a start, and the Indigenous Australian peoples experience is a revelation.  For example, according to a tv drama, they are a society predominately of young people. 

The insults are the same. People call them dirty, criminal and drug addicts. 

They are victimized because of their ‘colour’. Their colour? Even in a country where the sun barely rises for some of the year, and other times doesn’t set, the colour of their skin, a slight gradient of colour because I couldn’t tell the difference, but yes, even in the Artic Circle people insult and are gravely wounded because of how people feel about their skin.

The other issue – and I found confirmation of my thoughts fairly quickly (article below), was how do the Sami people themselves feel about how they were depicted in what was a fairly well constructed yarn with high production values on screen?

From what I gather, their views are the same, and as about as diverse as what we think here about how Aboriginal people appear on screen. It doesn’t seem like us, but it is the 'us' that any given time is the acceptable, the approved, the version that makes its way through the system to be made and put on screen.

Will we ever see us on screen? Do we need to?  And who are these shows for?  The majority of the population, the people who are fascinated and are seeking that insiders view into a little known part of the Australian population, but always served with cautious references to a shameful and painful history? 

In 2016 I can think of only one show – and granted I didn’t watch every show on free to air – where an Aboriginal character didn’t make my toes curl. 

Please Like Me just happened to have two characters that were played by Aboriginal people in the series that finished screening late in December 2016. Debra Mailman played one of them - she nails every performance, and always has. And a lad in another episode who Josh had a hilarious conversation with while on a date. 

They played for want of a better word, normal people. They weren’t shouting or glowering or mock-fierce or flat out ridiculous. Maybe they were so ordinary they shocked some viewers, but for me, it was glorious. It was enough for me to go back and binge the entire Please Like Me series

Midnight Sun is a fresh take on Scandic-Noir tv, with beautiful landscapes and satisfyingly complex lead characters. It will make you think despite it’s short comings.  I recommend it.

Some reviews that were an interesting read:

Michael Idato, Sydney Morning Herald, 9 December 2016

'Midnight Sun', Sweden's new blockbuster crime series, has drawn praise for its bloody tale of Arctic Circle murder but also concerns over the portrayal of the indigenous Sami.
Taken from The Local: The local Swedish news in English

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