Wrangling The Pull And The Pushers Of The Sleigh

by Staff / JA SOURCE Nowness

Journeying 400 kilometers above the polar circle to Karigasniemi village in Utsjoki, Finland, filmmaker Eva Weber captures the reindeer herding that has been the livelihood of the Arctic’s indigenous Sámi people for countless generations.

On the farm of local herder Ari Niiles Niittyvuopio, thousands of reindeer are brought in from the surrounding mountainsides where they graze in warmer months. Once gathered, the animals are identified by various markers and distributed to their owners, who depend on them for food, hides and, in some instances, entertainment. A popular sport in the region, reindeer racing takes place every spring, with bucks trained to pull a “jockey” on skies around a one-kilometer loop at speeds of up to 60kmph to determine who owns the fastest beast. With twilight looming at 9:30am and complete darkness having settled by 2pm, Weber and her crew braved temperatures of minus 18 degrees Celsius during the several days they spent with the animals. “They really are the most striking creatures,” says Weber. “They all have this incredible, breath-taking energy and inexplicable mystery. The noise they make is completely fascinating, beautiful, unlike anything you’ve ever heard before.”