Sumé: The Sound of a Revolution
In 1972, two Greenlandic students, Malik Høegh and Per Berthelsen, met and formed the band Sumé while studying in Denmark (as was customary for Greenlandic youth at the time). They were the first rock band to sing in native Greenlandic, a simple act of rebellion. They could never have imagined that it would lead to a cultural revolution that would see the indigenous Greenlandic people demanding autonomy from Danish colonial rule.
Director Inuk Silis Høegh uses interviews with band members, politicians, activists and fans to tell of how the band formed, their motivations and their effect in galvanising the Greenlandic people to make political demands for self-governance. The film also cuts footage of Greenland in the 70s with the band’s music to create an idea of the values, traditions and customs they were fighting to uphold.
Never shying away from a political message, songwriter and founding member Malik Høegh saw this band as an opportunity, not just to make popular music, but to make a statement. It was only when they felt their message was being appropriated to support causes they did not completely endorse that the band began to question themselves.
As they went their separate ways, this documentary clearly shows the impact that their youthful idealism had on the band, their fans and on Greenland. Music can be a means of uniting a people and making them proud of their heritage, even in the face of modernity. The combination of rock music with the Greenlandic language and traditional stories expresses that perfectly.
Now old men, they all have fond memories, not only of the experience of being a young band at that time, but also of inadvertently starting a revolution. It is estimated that 20% of the population of Greenland owned some of their music. In particularly moving moments, fans of the band are played their music again and asked what it meant to them at the time. At one point, their manager burst into tears as he reminisces about why it was all so important.
Revelling in this nostalgia draws out a true sense of just what the band meant, and continues to mean, not only to those involved, but to the Greenlandic people as a whole.
Sumé: The Sound of a Revolution does not yet have a UK release date.
Read more of our reviews and interviews from the festival here.
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Watch the trailer for Sumé: The Sound of a Revolution here:
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