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Anarchy in Finland – and a bit of love

By Anna Leikkari, September 2012

Photo courtesy of Love and AnarchyLove and Anarchy, film festival, Helsinki, FinlandThe Finnish Northern is the new Western: Aino (Pamela Tola) and Matti (Lauri Tilkanen) play the innocent, beautiful lovers in “Once Upon a Time in the North.”

See our Top 7 picks from the 25th Helsinki International Film Festival: Love and Anarchy, which transforms the city into a moviegoers’ paradise from September 20 to 30, 2012. One of its themes, Finnish Film Week, offers some of the most visually stunning, inventive and controversial domestic films ever seen.

In The Marshal of Finland, Finland’s greatest war hero is played on the silver screen by an African actor. Once Upon a Time in the North depicts Finnish outlaws terrorising the picturesque Nordic countryside long ago – it’s a Northern, rather than a Western.

Love and Anarchy attracts tens of thousands of movie buffs and industry professionals into the exciting world beyond the mainstream, with more than 180 contemporary feature films, 80 short films and an array of events and panel talks around the city.

Here’s our very own Top 7 list to help you find the best Finnish films in the maze of choices – enjoy!

1. The Marshal of Finland (Suomen Marsalkka)

The only Finnish film in the festival’s Spotlight Selection theme, The Marshal of Finland has certainly received media scrutiny since its topic was revealed to the public. The character and life of the film’s central hero are loosely based on those of Finland’s national war hero and former president Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, who was voted one of Finland’s greatest men of all time in a survey by the Finnish Broadcasting Company. As if it was not challenging enough to try to portray his personal life, the makers decided to do so in modern-day Kenya.

Is the result as dramatically offensive as some Finns seem to think? Or does it portray a brave, extraordinary freedom fighter in a different, softer light – perhaps made possible only by this incredibly fresh and modern outlook, relieved stripped of the nation’s blind worship?

A Finnish production, the film is directed by Kenyan Gilbert Lukalia and the Marshal played by his fellow Kenyan Telley Savalas Otieno.

Sept 28 @ Bio Rex, 8 pm

2. The Punk Syndrome (Kovasikajuttu)

Although this critically acclaimed documentary has already toured the cinemas of Finland and the world, its allure hasn’t waned. The film stands as a nominee for the prestigious Nordic Council Film Prize in October 2012. Bold and raw, the film portrays “Finland’s most hardcore punk band,” Pertti Kurikan nimipäivät (PKN) – a group of four men with learning disabilities.

The Punk Syndrome is a film about “punk music and its core essence”. It’s also about prejudice against people with disabilities and these people’s fight against mainstream perceptions. Following the group on their intensive life of tours and rehearsals permeated by larger-than-life feelings makes Pertti, Kari, Toni and Sami very real and brings them very close to us. The film can make you think about learning disabilities twice – why do they still represent such a taboo in Western society?

Directors: Jukka Kärkkäinen and J-P. Passi
Sept 27 @ Kinopalatsi, 6:45 pm

3. When Heroes Lie (Sinivalkoinen valhe)

(trailer in Finnish)

This film, whose original Finnish title means “Blue and White Lie,” represents one of the Finnish Film Week theme’s most controversial spotlights. With the London Olympics fresh in people’s minds, the film’s portrayal of doping in sports is timely. It’s also painful.

The Finns find it almost unbearable to admit that there has ever been a tarnish on cross-country skiing – the country’s most popular sport, practiced by around half the population. The 2001 World Championships in the southern Finnish city of Lahti were supposed to be a triumph for the nation’s cross-country skiing programme.

Instead, six Finnish skiers tested positive for doping, setting the stage for a shattering scandal, the subject of this film. When Heroes Lie also reveals the history of doping in Finnish skiing and the web of lies that surrounds elite sports in general. Many questions linger. Do we ever recover from this kind of scam? What is the purpose of sports if it’s impossible to compete without illegal substances?

Director: Arto Halonen
Sept 26 @ Bio Rex, 7 pm

4. Once Upon a Time in the North (Härmä)

(trailer in Finnish)

For those who love a good Western – Finnish-style! The makers of Once Upon a Time in the North wanted to see if it was possible to produce a film about 19th-century Ostrobothnia (an area of Finland along the northern portion of the west coast) that would interest the young crowd as well. Combining a cast of talented actors, stunning visual effects and an ever-thickening plot full of love, lust, violence and blood, they certainly succeeded. We hope the film will enthral the foreign audience as effectively as it has attracted domestic moviegoers.

Director: J.P. Siili
Sept 24 @ Kinopalatsi, 6:30 pm

5. Ricky Rapper and Cool Wendy (Risto Räppääjä ja Viileä Venla)

(trailer in Finnish)

What’s the greatest cultural phenomenon to hit the Finnish children’s literature scene in the past decade? That would be the books about Risto Räppääjä – a.k.a. Ricky Rapper! And since having been adapted on the big screen, the inventive RR musicals have also transformed children’s cinema in Finland. Kids love them.

Ricky Rapper and Cool Wendy forms the third Ricky Rapper film. Just like its predecessors, the film is funny, breathtakingly fast-paced and painstakingly clever, with colours that could make Technicolor turn in its grave! We recommend it to kids and childish adults alike.

Director: Mari Rantasila
Sept 24 @ Bio Rex, 9 am

6. Purge (Puhdistus)

(trailer in Finnish)

There are many ways to experience Sofi Oksanen’s best-selling novel Purge, which has sold a million copies worldwide. It was originally a play, and an opera adaptation preceded the film version.

The film concentrates less on Oksanen’s book’s painful portrayal of Estonia’s recent history under Soviet occupation and more on the suffering it has caused on two particular women. The love-torn, deceitful Aliide and fearful, tormented Zara meet under extraordinary circumstances, both suffering from their dark past. Their experiences both bind them together and make it difficult for them to accept one another. Dark and heavy, yet brilliant. Just like the novel, but different.

Director: Antti J. Jokinen
Sept 27 @ Kinopalatsi, 6:30 pm

7. Iron Sky

Invaders from outer space? Nazis from the moon? Far from the deadpan humour and gritty reality of famous Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki, this is not the kind of film Finland is usually known for.

Pick-and-mix style, corny lines and explosions permeate this crazy story that has already taken the world by storm, so to speak.

Director: Timo Vuorensola
Sept 26 @ Kinopalatsi, 4:30 pm

See also:

Aki Louhimies – Illusionist of truth (interview with the director of Naked Harbour (Vuosaari), another Finnish film on the Love and Anarchy menu)
What Westerners weren’t supposed to see (interview with Sofi Oksanen about her novel Purge)


The 25th Helsinki International Film Festival: Love and Anarchy, September 20–30, 2012 (Finnish Film Week Sept 25–27)

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