Five From Finland
Finnish film is being featured in more and more cinemas and living rooms around the globe.Adobe
Finnish cinema has been reaching an ever-growing audience on screens around the world in recent years thanks to these film directors.
Aki Kaurismäki may very well be the most recognised Finnish director abroad, but he is far from the be-all and end-all for the local film scene. In fact, the film and TV sector in Finland is blooming, with more and more Finnish productions sold internationally and screened at festivals around the globe.
This year’s Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) and European Film Market (EFM) are good examples. Family Time (2023) directed by Tia Kouvo was screened as a part of the festival’s Encounters section. Described as a “humorous and sharp study on family relations,”the film represents the perfect mix of Nordic family drama and “comédie humaine”.
The European Film Market, organised in close connection with Berlinale, also saw its share of Finnish events, including the Why So Series? panel discussion. Following the international success of such Finnish series as Mister 8 by Teemu Nikki, Stop Nyqvist by Juha Lankinen, The Man Who Died by Samuli Valkama and 66th North Precinct by Teppo Airaksinen, the event focused on how Nordic noir is turning into dark comedy.
Below are five more Finnish film directors who have been in the spotlight in recent years.
Four Little Adults (2023) by Selma Vilhunen touches on the topic of polyamory and shows four individuals’ sentimental experiments.Mitro Härkönen / Tuffi Film
This Academy Award-nominated director and screenwriter made her full-length debut in 2016 with Little Wing. The heart-warming tale made an impact on screens from Toronto to Belgrade. In 2017, her documentary Hobbyhorse Revolution did as its title suggests: made waves worldwide with its depiction of the Finnish youngsters’ hobby. In 2019, Vilhunen made headlines after her edgy drama Stupid Young Heart won the Crystal Bear at Berlinale.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Vilhunen gave everyone a much-needed relief with the premiere of a 10-episode series she co-directed with Kirsikka Saari, Carpe Fucking Diem. The series is centred around two women in their thirties deciding to have the best time of their lives.
Her latest film, Four Little Adults (2023), is a comedy of manners that tells the story of a middle-class couple trying a lifestyle of polyamory. The feature recently won the Dragon Award for best acting at the Göteborg Film Festival for Alma Pöysti's interpretation of one of the main characters, Juulia.
“It’s very true that I am interested in love as a subject and polyamory could be viewed as its fullest form,” Vilhunen commented.
My Sailor My Love (2022) by Klaus Härö evolves from a late-life love story into a study of family trauma across generations.Making Movies Oy
Eight feature films into his career, Härö has won over 60 awards, including the Crystal Bear at Berlinale and the Ingmar Bergman Award. Providing Finland’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars on four occasions, he became recognised worldwide for his sensitive and thoughtful output in 2015’s The Fencer.
Following the success, Häro’s One Last Deal premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018 and was warmly received by the public, press and distributors alike. Reflecting the director’s inclination for humane themes, Life after Death was inspired by the time his mother passed away. The tragicomic film had its domestic release in March 2020.
2022’s My Sailor My Love became Härö’s first production in English. The film, revolving around the strained relationship between a retired sea captain and his daughter, received the Audience Award for International Feature at last year's Chicago International Film Festival.
According to Härö, film-making is all about team effort. “It is my greatest joy to collaborate with every single craftsperson – from the writer, the producer to the sound designer – to make the best film possible,” he noted.
“I’m not sure if I would be a film-maker if I wasn’t a Skolt Sámi and if I hadn’t have to struggle with it from an early age,” revealed Katja Gauriloff.Facebook / Katja Gauriloff
First catching global attention with the 2012 documentary Canned Dreams, Gauriloff followed it up with 2016’s Kaisa’s Enchanted Forest, a fairytale set in the land of the Skolt Sámi people near the Arctic Circle. Narrated by the director’s great-grandmother, the film was recognised with a number of international accolades.
After trying her hand at fiction film production with Baby Jane in 2019, Gauriloff set herself a mission to introduce the unique Skolt Sámi culture to an even wider audience. For the last couple of years, Gauriloff has been working on Je’vida, an intimate historical drama and the world's first fiction film in the Skolt Sámi language.
Planned to premiere in the spring of 2023, Je’vida is Gauriloff’s interpretation of different stories she has heard from her family during her life.
“Some of the stories are those told by my mother about her childhood, some come from my aunts and uncles,” Gauriloff explained. “There are also many things that are a product of my imagination.”
The Beast Must Die (2021), a thriller TV series directed by Dome Karukoski, has received positive reviews from critics in Great Britain and beyond.BritBox
Balancing Nordic and American sensibilities, Karukoski broke onto the international stage with his fifth feature, Tom of Finland (2017). After that, he set his sights on helming a J.R.R. Tolkien biopic. Released in 2019, Tolkien received mixed reviews from critics and was not a commercial success.
Meanwhile, The Beast Must Die, a 2021 British thriller TV series directed by Karukoski, received praise from both critics and viewers. Shot on the Isle of Wight with its “mystical” atmosphere, the five-part drama tells a gripping story about a woman taking justice and revenge into her own hands for her only son’s death.
Experienced in working in international settings, Karukoski has great things to say about Finnish film-making. “We have a generation of film-makers who think about cinema very broadly,” he pointed out. “They think internationally, but they also think a lot about their audience.”
Tove, the praised biopic about Tove Jansson, broke records as the most seen Finnish film in cinemas in Finland in the autumn of 2020.Tommi Hynynen / Helsinki filmi
With five feature films and numerous festival awards, Zaida Bergroth is known for her complex female characters. For example, Miami (2017) is a story of two sisters reuniting after years of separation, while the period drama Maria’s Paradise (2019) is centred around charismatic cult leader Maria Åkerblom.
2020’s Tove became the first ever feature film about illustrator and author Tove Jansson, known globally as the creator of the hugely popular Moomins. The biopic was selected as the Finnish entry for the Best International Feature Film award at the Oscars and won a whopping seven honours at Jussi, Finland’s main national film awards. It has been sold to over 50 territories, including the US, the UK, Japan and South Korea.
“Tove Jansson is the national treasure of Finland, an icon,” Bergroth said. “I was really pleased [to make the film], but I was a bit worried because I needed to find my own way to the character, to feel that I was the right director to tell her story.”
More recently, Bergroth has been involved in the production of the Swedish crime series The Detective from Beledwyne, with the premiere set for this spring.