Skellefteå man scores shock lead role in Netflix movie

Skellefteå man Niilá Omma is about to experience a major first: his acting debut in a Netflix film. The film is an adaptation of the award-winning novel "Stöld" by Ann-Helén Laestadius, and it premieres tonight, Friday April 12. English speakers will be please to know that the movie comes with English subtitles.

Niilá Omma makes his acting debut in the film adaptation of "Stöld," which premieres on Netflix on April 12, 2024.

Niilá Omma makes his acting debut in the film adaptation of "Stöld," which premieres on Netflix on April 12, 2024.

Foto: Carl-Johan Utsi/Netflix

Engelska2024-04-12 17:00

Omma never intended to become an actor.

– A friend suggested they were looking for Sami actors, he explains.

– And I thought, 'Why not?' There aren't many of us, so I applied and got a role, just like that.

By day, Omma works at Beijer Byggmaterial. In his free time, he creates beautiful Sami handicrafts, particularly knives from reindeer horn, which he sells worldwide. Notably, the buckle he wears in the film is his own creation. Handicrafts are clearly closer to his heart than acting.

Elin Kristina Oskal plays the lead role of Elsa in the film "Stöld". She embarks on a quest to track down a murderer to avenge a personal injustice.

During casting, Omma's natural charisma led to a role being rewritten to better suit him.

– It felt right," he says.

– The lines flowed naturally, and it was comfortable. I even have a bit of a romantic role – flirting, dancing, that kind of thing.

Omma believes authenticity is crucial in storytelling.

– Having actors who genuinely reflect their characters' cultures adds depth, he explains.

– It's like watching a Swedish production where someone fakes a northern dialect – it just doesn't work. In 'Stöld,' we speak northern Sami. While I might not be fluent in everyday conversation, I know my lines well.

The film has brought Omma closer to his Sami heritage.

– I've reconnected with relatives and made new friends within the community, he says.

Omma's family has a rich history in reindeer herding, but his everyday life doesn't necessarily reflect that tradition.

– I don't walk around in traditional clothing yoiking, he laughs.

– However, many of my relatives and friends are herders, and I sometimes help out. So, I understand the culture and how to behave in a reindeer pasture.

Actors in the film adaptation of "Stöld". From left: Elin Kristina Oskal, Niilá Omma, Ida Persson Labba, Per-Olof Nutti, and Lars-Ánte Wasara.

Omma's comments highlight the growing emphasis on cultural authenticity in filmmaking. 

By casting actors with the lived experience and cultural understanding of their characters, filmmakers can create more nuanced and believable performances. 

This approach is particularly important when portraying marginalized or underrepresented communities, as it ensures that their stories are told with respect and accuracy.

Dialect is important, but are there other aspects that require someone to be born into the culture?

– Yes, it's a bit more than just the dialect. It's about how you behave, how you speak to each other, and how you act in different situations. I'm used to being in a reindeer pasture, and if you've never been in one, you'd definitely stick out. It's more than just throwing a lasso – it's the social aspects, the way you interact. And of course, the language. In the movie, we speak mostly northern Sami. Now, I might not be fluent enough for a deep conversation, but I know my lines well enough.

Niilá Omma makes his acting debut in the film adaptation of "Stöld," which premieres on Netflix on April 12, 2024.

Which Sami community do you belong to?

– Umbyn. Their summer pastures are around Hemavan, and the winter pastures are closer to the coast. I also have relatives on Artfjället. Sami people have generally been pushed away from the coast since the colonization of Norrland. Reindeer herding, in particular, was heavily impacted. There have always been Sami people here in Skellefteå, but their culture has become quite… suppressed. Swedish culture, especially in this industrial city, has had a strong influence. Many Sami people were even forcibly relocated, like my great-grandfather and his wife who were moved from Norrbotten to Västerbotten in the 1920s. That's why I wear a Karesuando buckle, make Northern Sami handicrafts, and speak the language myself.

Does the film 'Stöld' address both internal and external conflicts within Sami culture?

"Absolutely. The film is a very relevant reflection of contemporary Sami society. Set in the present day, it explores everything from poaching and the mining industry's impact to the challenges of modern reindeer herding against the backdrop of climate change. The story reflects the reality of Sami reindeer herding today, not how it was in the past. The entire book it's based on is built on true stories, making it a kind of 'fiction based on truth.'"

Do you notice any ongoing conflict between southern Sami and northern Sami groups?

– Yes, I do. If you take people from their land and force them to settle elsewhere, there will be conflict. It doesn't necessarily have to be about Sami people specifically. But honestly, I'm not that well-versed in those details. I tend to avoid it.

Have you seen the movie yet?

– No, not yet, but I have a good feeling about it. People often talk about Sami people as if we're some relic of the past, forgetting that we're still here, thriving in the present day. This movie is about the now, and I think that's important.

Niilá Omma is previously known for his Sami duodji craftsmanship.
Elin Oskal, who plays Elsa in the Netflix film "Stöld," has a romance with Niilá Omma, who portrays the reindeer herder Niilá: "We flirt and dance and have fun," says Omma.

Have you made any other film appearances?

– Never.

Do you want to do more film?

– Yes, yes, absolutely. My God, I'm going to do that. I haven't really started looking so seriously yet, for more roles, because I think I'm going to wait until the movie comes out. So I have something to show.                                                                                                                 

"Stöld" plot summary

"Stöld" focuses on nine-year-old Elsa, who witnesses a traumatic event: a non-Sami man named Robert brutally kills her reindeer, Nástegallu, and then threatens her into silence. 

This act of violence sets the stage for Elsa's fight for justice in a world rife with anti-Sami prejudice. The story unfolds against the backdrop of a changing climate, which threatens the very way of life for Elsa's Sami community – reindeer herding.

"Stöld" doesn't shy away from the complexities within the Sami community itself. It explores the challenges faced by Elsa as a young girl determined to be a reindeer herder, a traditionally male profession.

Ann-Helén Laestadius wrote the novel "Stöld" on which the film is based.