Netflix’s ‘Stolen’ Is Inspired By Real Events In The Sámi Community

By Louie Fecou
Published: April 15, 2024 (Last updated: last month)
Is Stolen on Netflix based on a true story?
Stolen | Image via Netflix

Stolen is inspired by the real-life struggles of the Sámi people. It’s a fictional narrative rather than a true story, but the touching tale of a young woman out for revenge against xenophobic reindeer killers reflects innumerable real cases of indigenous erasure. The educational thriller succeeds in shining a light on a small community, even if it comes at the expense of drama (at least according to our review).

A Fictional Narrative Informed By Real Events

Is Stolen on Netflix based on a true story?

Ann-Helén Laestadius | Image via Elisabeth Olson

Stolen is a fictional narrative set against the backdrop of real events and encompasses the brutality surrounding the Sámi people. It should be noted that the film does feature some disturbing images of animals, and if like me you are an animal lover, some of these scenes are particularly troubling, so brace yourself.

The Swedish Netflix film is based on the novel of the same name by award-winning author Ann-Helén Laestadius, also an executive producer. Laestadius is a journalist and author and would win an award for her 2016 young adult book Ten Past One. Stolen would be her first adult novel, written in 2021 and translated into English, becoming a worldwide bestseller.

The book follows a story set within the Sámi community, found in the region of Sapmi in the Northern areas of Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Although the story is fictional, it heavily relies on real-life Sámi people and explores the fascinating lives of the Sámi community, including their herding of reindeer, which is a focal point for the events in the film.

There are themes present that bring to light the harsh struggle of the Sámi people, who have to fight against those that seek to eradicate them echoing other worldwide indigenous issues experienced by those such as Native Americans and Australian Aboriginals.

Are the characters in Stolen based on real people?

Since Stolen is based on a novel that presents a fictional story, the characters in the film are not based on specific people. However, the setting, community, and themes explored all have their basis in the real-life Sámi community.

The film accurately depicts the lives of the Sámi people, but the characters themselves are fictional. In many ways this is better, since the film’s characters could quite easily be stand-ins for any Sámi people who have experienced similar transgressions (which, according to my research, is most of them.)

Notably, Stolen is the first-ever Sámi feature film that has been produced by Netflix, featuring an entirely Sámi cast and crew.

Reindeer Revenge

Stolen tells the story of nine-year-old Elsa, who is learning the ways of the community, and reindeer farming. However, Elsa sees a hunter who brutally kills one of the baby reindeer. Ten years later, still traumatized by what she witnessed, Elsa eventually decides that she will find the killer and take revenge.

The official IMDb synopsis reads:

A young woman’s struggle to defend her indigenous heritage in a world where xenophobia is on the rise, climate change is threatening reindeer herding, and young people choose suicide in the face of collective desperation.

What is The International Sami Film Institute?

The International Sámi Film Institute (ISFI)  is an institute that helps to provide Sámi people with support in developing, producing, and distributing films, documentaries, and animation in the Sámi language.

As well as this, the institute also helps organize workshops, helps the local film industry, supports work with scripts, and allocates funds for projects. Three upcoming Sámi films that you may be interested in are Techno Father, At The Crossroads, and Salmon Sorrow, which are all being released in 2024. 

More on Stolen:

Filming Locations

Movie News, Movies, Netflix, News, Streaming Service