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The Eira Family

Production year: 2007 | 8x40' | Genres: Lifestyle / Travel
Living with the reindeers
Origin country: Norway
Production company: NRK Norsk Rikskringkasting AS
Original title: Reinlykke
Original language: Norwegian
Formats: SD

For a whole year an NRK camera team closely followed and filmed the daily life of the Eira family from Kautokeino, in the far north of Norway, and their large herd of reindeer. This eight-part series covers the animals' annual migration to new feeding grounds, calving, marking and slaughtering. Also included are traditional Sami courtship rituals and marriage ceremonies.

These Sami herdsmen live in a world far removed from the hustle and bustle of modern civilization. In Sami society the word of the family elders is law, daily life is geared to the needs of the reindeer and the vagaries of the weather, and children are brought up to tackle the challenges posed by life on the bleak Finnmark plateau.

Principal characters
Junnan (67), Johan Mathis Eira, is head of the family and the leading personality of the series. Highly respected for his knowledge and experience of handling reindeer, he has done much to preseve the Samis' long-established traditions of reindeer keeping.

He has eight children, three daughters and five sons; it is the sons who will carry on the family business. The oldest of them, Ole Mathis (40), is second in authority after his father. The youngest members of the family share the life and toil of their elders and so soon become hardened to nomadic life in these harsh surroundings.

Liv Allaug Slotte Pedersen is from southern Norway. She met Mikkel Isak, Junnan's next-oldest son, some years ago when she was a reporter on the local newspaper. At the time she was engaged in writing an article on reindeer keeping, and it was love at first sight.

A close-up of Sami culture
In this documentary viewers are afforded a unique insight into the practice of reindeer keeping and Sami culture. The Eira family are proud of their status as reindeer-keeping Samis. However, although they pay due heed to the Samis' hard-earned knowledge of how to survive in this arctic environment, in other respects they enjoy a thoroughly modern lifestyle.

Their clothing and mechanical and technical aids are all state-of-the-art, perfectly adapted to life on this barren, windswept plateau. Traditional Sami costume is worn only on festive occasions.

The first such ceremony in the series is a genuine Sami courtshp ritual. It features in the second episode, when Junnan's oldest daughter, Ann-Britt, receives a visit from her suitor.

The reindeer-keeping year is divided into eight distinct seasons, each devoted to some specific activity, an activity linked, in turn, to the focus of their lives: the reindeer.

First episode
It is May, and the female reindeer have come to a halt halfway between Kautokeino, deep within the plateau, and Kvænangen, on the coast, to calve. The calves first see the light of day in wintery surroundings, but after only a few days, stumbling along on their spindly little legs, they accompany their mothers on their annual migration to fresh spring pastures. The number of surviving calves determines whether the herd, on which the Eira family's livelihood and wealth depend, will increase in value. But some animals inevitably fall prey to predators, and road kills also take their toll.

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