It's A Finnish Affair: Exploring Finland's Cinema At The Helsinki Festival

by Serge Rakhlin October 4, 2016

Scenes from the Helsinki International Film Festival; bottom right, members of the HFPA delegation to HIFF.

Helsinki International Film Festival

In September 2016, a delegation of the HFPA members was once again invited to Finland to attend the 29th edition of the Helsinki International Film Festival (HIFF). This year members of the HFPA delegation were given the same warm welcome by our hosts: Sara Norberg, Executive Director of HIFF; Laura Laaksonen, Finnish Film Affair Producer; Jaana Puskala, head of International Department of the Finnish Film Foundation: Juulia Klemola, Finnish Film Affair Coordinator, Anni Wessman, Finnish FilmWeek Producer and Anna-Maria Rusi, in charge of all scheduling.

The HFPA co-hosted a filmmaker reception, in which the highlight was an announcement of the two joint winners of the Works in Progress Best Pitch award – each received a prize of €1,500 courtesy of the Finnish Film Foundation. The winners were directors J-P Passi, Jukka Kärkkainen and producer Sami Jahnukainen (Mouka Filmi) for their documentary film Post Punk Disorder, and director Dome Karukoski and producer Annika Sucksdorff (Helsinki Filmi) for the feature film Tom of Finland. Jury members included  Scott Feinberg, awards columnist at The Hollywood Reporter, Cia Edström, the head of Nordic Film Market at Göteborg Film Festival, Marie-Pierre Valle, the head of acquisitions at Wild Bunch and myself, Serge Rakhlin, chairman of the Foreign Language Films Committee of the HFPA. According to the jury announcement made by the jury chairman Scott Feinberg, all the projects were notable for their quality. We had a pretty difficult time choosing the best ones. A small country like Finland has a disproportionally remarkable pool of cinema talent, especially if you combine works in progress with the completed Finnish films presented during Finnish Film Affair.

Besides attending numerous screenings and participating in some major professional panels and discussions, a delegation of FFA guests, including HFPA members, was invited to the North of Finland. The North Finland Film Commission hosted us in Kuusamo and Oulu, (the places just under the Arctic Circle), over the weekend after the Finnish Film Affair. The program included getting to know the local film industry in Oulu and the region as a potential filming location.  The pretty cold weather was more than compensated by the warmth of Anne Laurila and her fellow northerners who made our Northern trip unforgettable.