Anastasia Lapsui & Markku Lehmuskallio


Anastasia Lapsui & Markku Lehmuskallio © Festival International de Films de Femmes

Anastasia Lapsui (Nenets) is a filmmaker, screenwriter, and radio journalist born into a nomadic family in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug in 1944, northwest of Siberia. She has developed a highly original documentary and narrative filmmaking practice in collaboration with her partner, Markku Lehmuskallio. Together, they have produced elegant portraits of the Nenets, Sami, and other Indigenous peoples, incorporating traditional folktales and spiritual customs with meticulous depictions of their everyday lives. She studied at the Salekhard Pedagogical Institute (1963-1966) and Ural State University, becoming the first Indigenous radio journalist in Yamal. Her films Seven Songs from the Tundra (1999), Mothers of Life (2002), Fata Morgana (2004), and Earth Evocation (2009), among others, have been widely exhibited at festivals and museums around the world, including the Berlinale, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Docpoint Helsinki, Toronto International Film Festival, Dok Leipzig, Midnight Sun Film Festival, and Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. She is the recipient of numerous awards including Finland’s top film prize, the Jussi Award, for Best Film (2000), Best Screenplay (2001) and Best Documentary Film (2003); Grand Prize from Festival International de Films de Femmes (2010); a Confédération Internationale des Cinémas d'Art et Essai Award from Berlinale Forum (2002); and the Finland Award (2009). She lives and works in Helsinki, Finland.
Markku Lehmuskallio (Finland) is a film director and cinematographer born in 1938 in Rauma, Finland. His entry point into filmmaking began while working as a forester in Finland, where he created instructional films for farmers to teach them how to plant pine seedlings. This ecologically focused practice continued, and while filming in the Arctic regions of the former Soviet Union he met Anastasia Lapsui. They have since collaboratively produced numerous documentaries about the lives of Indigenous peoples in the Arctic Circle and around the world. Lehmuskallio’s films have been exhibited widely at venues around the world, including the Berlinale, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Docpoint Helsinki, Dok Leipzig, Midnight Sun Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, and Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, among many others. He is the recipient of numerous awards including Jussi Awards for Best Short Film (1973), Best Cinematography (1975), and Best Documentary Film (2003); an Honourable Mention from the Berlinale (1980); the Aho & Soldan Lifetime Achievement Award (2002); the Jury Prize Région de Nyon from Visions du Réel (2020); and the Finland Award (1998). He lives and works in Helsinki, Finland.  

ONLINE SCREENING DATES: January 9 – January 30, 2023

FILMS IN THIS PROGRAM: Nedarma (Travelling), 82 min, 2007
This series is co-selected and presented with COUSIN collective and is generously funded by a Digital Now grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.

Nedarma (Travelling), 82 min, 2007

Nedarma (Travelling) is one of several documentary features co-directed by Anastasia Lapsui and Markku Lehmuskallio that portray the daily lives of the Nenets, Lapsui’s tribe based in the northern tundra of Siberia. The film invokes Nenets cosmology as a way of leading into a filmic structure that portrays the arc of life from birth to death. Lush 35mm black-and-white cinematography is used to portray people, landscapes, and quotidian activities with patience and a visionary perspective. Nekochako Lapsui’s narration guides the viewer along the different stages of life through poetry, song, and enigmatic prose. Scenes of overlaid color animation augment the stunningly austere black-and-white images, resulting in brilliant splashes of color, signifying the planes that lie beyond our earthly existence. Nedarma’s captivating soundtrack mixes the natural world with traditional Indigenous song, and is expertly scored by Anna-Kaisa Liedes and Kristiina Ilmonen.

In 1989, [Anastasia] Lapsui met Markku Lehmuskallio, a documentary filmmaker who had come from Finland to shoot a film in the Soviet Arctic. […] Lehmuskallio’s debuts in cinema were peculiar: working as a regional forester, he started to make instructional films in the 1970s to show farmers how to set out pine seedlings. He continued doing films with an ecological focus and developed an interest for Indigenous people’s worldviews, which took him across the Arctic (Scandinavia, Canada). Glasnost politics allowed him to go and film the Arctic regions of the Soviet Union. There, he met Lapsui in the Yamal tundra. This encounter marked the beginning of an artistic collaboration and the union of their two destinies: they are now married and still make films together to this day. 

Lehmuskallio introduced Lapsui to film editing with his films I Am (1992) and In the Shape of a Reindeer Across the Canopy of Heaven (1993). She co-wrote the script, worked as a sound engineer, and performed her own songs in the latter. Although their work encompasses several nationalities and ethnicities, such as Sami, Inuit, and even Belgian-Flemish (The Shepherd, 2001), the majority of their films focus on the topic of the Indigenous peoples of Northern Russia: the Nenets of course, but also the Chukchi, the Nganasan, and the Selkup. As Markku Lehmuskallio has stated in an interview, “We made almost all our films about the Indigenous peoples of Siberia. We take the point of view of the people we film. It is possible thanks to Anastasia, who comes from a nomadic Nenets family and knows well the world that we were able to film.” Lapsui is therefore pivotal in their artistic collaboration, as one of their main objectives is to transmit Nenets and other Indigenous cultures of the North to the rest of the world through the medium of film. Film is re-appropriated in the same way that radio broadcast was re-appropriated in the 1970s, when Lapsui used the medium to contribute to the preservation of her culture under the Soviet regime. – Caroline Damiens

Read the full article, “Filming Back,” in Siberian Indigenous Cinema: Cinematographic Re-appropriation Strategies in the Work of Anastasia Lapsui and Markku Lehmuskallio by Caroline Damiens.

Read about Anastasia Lapsui & Markku Lehmuskallio’s visit to the Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi, Finland.

All stills, photographs, and artwork courtesy Finish Film Foundation © Anastasia Lapsui and Markku Lehmuskallio. Screening co-presented with Finnish Film Foundation (SES).