As museums worldwide are increasingly pressured to return cultural property, co-directors Suvi West and Anssi Kömi share a personal and insightful story about the return of Sámi artifacts — long held in a museum — to their homeland.
Suvi West, Anssi Kömi
The deep significance of cultural and spiritual belonging is explored in Suvi West and Anssi Kömi’s intimate and profound documentary.
The camera follows West as she visits Sámi artifacts housed in a Helsinki museum as they are prepared for their long-awaited return to Sápmi, the Sámi nation in northern Scandinavia and northwestern Russia. Keen to discover if any of her ancestors’ belongings are among the collection, West carries us through the remarkably intricate and emotional depths of the repatriation of Indigenous cultural and spiritual property to their homelands.
Sámi (and countless other Indigenous nations’) relics are housed in museums worldwide, many of which were seized or claimed over the centuries as curios for trade or as part of the aggressive Christianization that demonized Sámi culture. In addition to everyday items such as clothing and tools, these collections also include spiritually powerful drums and, shockingly, human remains.
West powerfully illustrates how painful it can be to witness these items — imbued with the spirits of Sámi ancestors — stored in museum cabinets and separated from their rightful guardians. Yearning to make a tangible connection to her ancestors, she travels to museums in Germany and Sweden looking for her family’s property, often only uncovering disturbing truths.
Enhanced by the beautiful cinematography of co-director Kömi, Homecoming richly shares how personal identity, cultural value, and restorative justice can be intrinsically woven together and raises the important question of who has the right to a nation’s spiritual heritage.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival