Award-winning novel set in Sapmi to get Netflix treatment

“I’m incredibly happy that Netflix – with their reach – chooses to highlight a Sami story in a big way,” says writer Ann-Helen Laestadius. (Ahlander Agency)

A novel by Swedish writer Ann-Helen Laestadius about a woman’s struggle to defend her Indigenous heritage in Sapmi will be getting the full Netflix treatment.

The novel, Stolen, takes place in Arctic and follows the story of a young Sami girl named Elsa as she navigates a world of violence and bigotry towards her culture. 

Laestadius couldn’t be immediately reached for comment through her literary agency, but in a news release put out by Netflix, she said it was an important moment to have Sami culture in the spotlight. 

“I am over the moon,” Laestadius said. “For me as an author it is of course a dream to see my book adapted into a film and reach a whole new audience across the world. And I’m incredibly happy that Netflix – with their reach – chooses to highlight a Sami story in a big way.”

‘I recognize myself in this story’

The script for the Netflix film will be written by Peter Birro and directed by Elle Marja Eira.

“It is about time that the world gets to know this story, and what is going on in Sapmi today,” Eira said.

“I am a reindeer owner myself, and I recognize myself in this story. I also know that my fellow indigenous sisters, brothers and ancestors are with me. I am proud and grateful that Netflix and Ann-Helen Laestadius have given me this opportunity, and cannot wait to bring it to a new audience.”

Laestadius will serve as executive director. 

The Swedish cover of Stolen. The novel tackles the increasing pressures on Sami culture including colonialism and climate change, as well as the themes of women’s place in traditional culture. (Ahlander Agency)

Stolen was originally published in Sweden in 2021 and won that country’s Book of the Year also in 2021.

The book has since been sold to more than 20 countries, including Canada.

Global release slated for 2024

Laestadius, who describes herself as of Sami and Tornedalian (a Finnish minority in Sweden) decent is originally from the Arctic city of Kiruna in Sweden. 

She started as a YA and children’s book author.

Stolen is her first adult novel.

Filming for Stolen will take place in Sapmi starting in spring 2023. 

The film version of Stolen is slated for global release in 2024.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: 2022 Arctic Arts Summit kicks off June 27 in Yukon, Canada, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: 70th annual reindeer cup races held on frozen Lake Inari, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: German project to house everything published in Siberian and Arctic languages to seek new funding, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Sweden, Norway team up to preserve ancient rock carvings, Radio Sweden

United States: American cartoonist says his new book on Canadian Indigenous history helped decolonize part of himself, CBC News

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