Generation Next of Finnish Directors at the Toronto International Film Festival
Four Finnish films made the cut this year for the largest film festival in North America, the Toronto International Film Festival. Only one of the four directors is at TIFF for the first time, however, they all represent the up-and-coming generation of Finnish filmmakers.
The Kaurismäki brothers, Aki and Mika, propelled Finnish cinema to international acclaim in the 1980’s. They may both be approaching retirement, but thankfully many a Finnish director has followed in their footsteps. A good number of them are regulars on the festival circuit and with an everincreasing number of distribution deals coming their way. The selection of Finnish films at TIFF this year serves as a wonderful introduction to contemporary cinema the Finnish way.
Maria’s Paradise (Marian paratiisi) by Zaida Bergroth will have its world premiere at the festival on Friday September 5 with two additional screenings. It is a TIFF three-peat for the director – only two years ago, she premiered Miami at the festival. She had her first screening at the festival in 2011 with The Good Son. Her films focus on family and relationship dynamics, often in extraordinary circumstances, as is the case in point this time around. The film has already picked up an international distribution deal with Danish Level K.
Maria’s Paradise is loosely based on the life of Maria Åkerblom, a charismatic leader of her own evangelical sect in the early 1900’s in Finland. In the leading role is Pihla Viitala, who also played detective Sofia Karppi, the lead in the Finnish crime drama Deadwind with season one shown on Netflix. Salome, an orphan girl adopted by Maria Åkerblom starts to question life with the sect in face of disturbing, even violent incidents. She is held back by loyalty to her benefactor, struggling to make a choice between the outside world and her insular surroundings.
Zaida Bergroth is excited about her next project, a biographical film about beloved Finnish author and artist Tove Jansson, the creator of the iconic Moomin characters. According to Bergroth she feels ‘95% absolutely over the moon, and 5% terrified’ with the prospect of doing justice to the subject matter.
Teemu Nikki’s already award-winning All Inclusive gets its North American premiere at the festival, screening with six other shorts in the Short Cuts Programme 06 on Sunday, September 8, with a repeat screening the following Sunday.
Nikki is a self-taught director who makes films because he loves it. One of his early documentary shorts, Play God, is a painfully honest self-deprecating tale about the difficulty of making a film, which he thankfully did not give up doing. To get a sense of his unbridled energy for filmmaking, you only need to browse his production company web site at It’s Alive!
In All Inclusive one of life’s losers stumbles on what seems a cure for his hum-drum life, but as usual with Teemu Nikki, there is a surprise in the works. This is his second visit to TIFF, hot on the heels of the 2017 screening of Euthanizer. When asked if he could wish for anything at all, Nikki replied that he hopes to be able to make movies until he dies. And that he will not die tomorrow but after a long time!
Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (Koirat eivät käytä housuja) by J-P Valkeapää already made it to Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes, which is a parallel programme at the world famous film festival, established by the French Film Directors’ Guild and known for its cutting edge programming. It’s North American premiere takes place on Monday, September 9 with two additional screenings. Valkeapää’s first time at the festival was in 2014 with They Have Escaped about teens running away from a group home.
Dogs Don’t Wear Pants is a very dark comedy-drama about a man stifled by grief over the drowning death of his wife. By sheer happenstance, he stumbles on a dominatrix at her studio and hopes to find the solace he has been yearning for in S&M. An audience member from Cannes sums it up: you either love or hate this movie. There is no middle ground. Scott Roxborough’s Hollywood reporter review from Cannes offers some insights to help you decide which camp you might be in.
Short Cuts Programme 08 features relative newcomer Teemu Niukkanen, self-described ‘Master of Lame’. He gets a rollicking start at TIFF with his comedy Are You Hungry? (Onko sulla nälkä) about the trials of being a teenager with an overprotective mom in a world premiere on Tuesday September 10 and repeat screening on the following Sunday.
His award-winning first short comedy Fucking Bunnies from 2017 made it to official selection at Sundance Film Festival and has been seen at over 100 festivals around the world. Niukkanen had his start in commercials and sketch comedy. He is happy to continue on working at the challenging art of comedy, with a penchant for the absurd.
For tickets and information, visit tiff.net