In the Nenets language, Numd Syarda means "tied to Num" -- Num being the highest god of this Arctic pastoralist people. In the mesmerizing A Bride of the Seventh Heaven, Numd Syarda tells her life story to Ilne ("giver of life"), a young blind girl. Numd Syarda is offered to Num as his bride for life, which leads her to spend much of her time alone -- she is feared by women, misunderstood by men, and doomed never to bear children. Despite her status, she lives contentedly in the shelter of her family. But after they die she must make her own way in the harsh Arctic. Yet Syarda is strong, and despite making many decisions she regrets, she finds the power to save herself. Her sad yet luminous story is filmed in the tundra of the Yamal Peninsula and features a cast of local Nenets people, all new to acting. Their expressions of their own lives, and their interaction with an unforgiving yet beautiful landscape that itself becomes a character, make A Bride of the Seventh Heaven an exquisite exploration of loneliness and empowerment.
Markku Lehmuskallio, born in Rauma, Finland in 1938, worked as a forester prior to starting his filmmaking career in 1969. His documentaries and fiction films, such as Sounds of the Northern Forest and The Dance of Life, focus on the indigenous inhabitants of Siberia, Greenland, Northern Canada, and Scandinavia. During production, Lehmuskallio usually spends extended periods on location, living, working, and eating among the people in his documentaries. The two-part documentary I am takes the viewer on a rich journey to the mythological world of the Arctic peoples, their legends and rites. While touring the Northern hemisphere, Lehmuskallio met the Nenets people, who still followed their traditional lifestyle in the Yamal peninsula in Siberia. Anastasia Lapsui, born in the Yamal Peninsula and Lehmuskallio's guide on I Am, became his steady partner in filmmaking after that. Prior to working with Lehmuskallio, Lapsui had two scripts produced by Novosibirsk Film Studio. Her partnership with Lehmuskallio has produced several documentaries and features including In Reindeer Shape Across the Sky and The Farewell Chronicle. The themes of indigenous peoples and man's relation to nature can be seen in such festival hits as Seven Songs from the Tundra (2000) and Mothers of Life (2002).