Movies from Finnish filmmakers were reviewed during the weeklong festival, which was held in three Iranian cities from September 28 to October 4.
A lineup of 16 short and feature movies from Finnish filmmakers was screened at the Finnish Film Week, which was organized by Iran’s Art and Experience Cinema and the Finnish Film Foundation at the Iranian Artists Forum in Tehran, the Hoveizeh Cineplex in Mashhad, and the City Center Cineplex in Isfahan.
A number of Finnish cineastes, including producer and Finnish Film Foundation chief executive officer Lasse Saarinen, producer Kaarle Aho, and director and screenwriter Reeta Aalto, attended the festival.
Here is Honaronline’s interview with Saarinen, Aho and Aalto about the Finnish film industry, the possibility of joint film productions between Iran and Finland, and more.
Saarinen: We can help Iranian and Finnish filmmakers to work together
Lasse Saarinen (b. 1960) has produced more than 60 features, animated and documentary films in a career spanning three decades. In 2003, the Finnish Film Producers' Federation rewarded Saarinen for his long career with the Film Producer of the Year award. He became CEO of the Finnish Film Foundation on August 1, 2016.
Finnish cinema has undergone a lot of changes in recent years.
I think it has been better every year especially during this century. Since 2000, the variety of Finnish films has grown a lot, and it is very good. Especially in abroad, there has been some kind of recognition that many Finnish films are excellent. We have so many different voices right now, and I’m very happy to say that, nowadays quiet many new directors are young female ones, who are making best films in Finland.
Aki Kaurismaki is one of Europe's most celebrated directors and he is described as Finland's best-known filmmaker. What do you think about his films and its effects on the Finnish film industry?
He has his own style, and he is perfect in making his kind of movies. He and his filmmaker brother Mika have influenced Finnish films a lot, because they were the first ones, who became really well-known in Europe big film festivals. Now it is so much easier for us to say that we are coming from Finland, because everybody knows Kaurismakis.
Finland has chosen Selma Vihunen's Stupid Young Heart to represent the country at next year's Oscar race in the international film category. Vilhunen received an Academy Award nomination in the category of Best Live Action Short Film for the 2013 film Do I Have to Take Care of Everything? We know Finland has been nominated just once for an Academy Award — for Kaurismäki's The Man Without a Past in 2002 — and it is yet to win. Do you think Vihunen’s new film could land an Oscar nomination?
Well, it is very difficult to predict. This year, a record-breaking total of 93 countries have submitted entries to be considered for best international film nominations at the Academy Awards, and eventually, five films will be nominated. It is a lot of politics and especially inside United States. Some movies could win, but they are not sponsored by big corporations. I'm sorry we don't have these big companies on our side to help us. About Selma Vihunen, I could say her previous Oscar nomination could be useful. I mean they know her very well and that means Finland has a chance. One of the things we do at the Finnish Film Foundation is to invest in making such films and to participate in such competitions.
Nowadays, films and serials have changed in the form and structure, and the market is dominated by Streaming Services like Netflix and HBO. Do you have a plan to work with these companies?
No, we don’t have any especial program for that, because the money we use is state money, and the problem with companies like HBO or Netflix is that they buy all rights, and then you see that your film or TV series only play on some websites. You can’t see them everywhere else.
How can Iranian and Finnish filmmakers worth together?
We have some theme or subject, and we just want to hear excellent ideas which can be made with us. For instance if a Finnish director wants to make a documentary or series in Iran, we freely take part and it is no problem in it, and If a good Iranian director has an idea for a film, we can support him or her the same way we support a Finnish director. They can do whatever they want. We can help the Iranian and Finnish filmmakers to work together and learn from each other. That is very important for us.
Aho: Sanctions have nothing to do with cultural interaction
Kaarle Aho (b. 1968) has a Master’s in History from the University of Helsinki. After his studies in Helsinki and Ireland, he worked as a promoter of Russian classical music in Finland and other Scandinavian countries. In 1996, he set up the production company Making Movies with Kai Nordberg. The company has since produced more than 50 documentaries, ten feature films, two TV series and several shorts. Aho has also written two documentaries, a short film and a novel. As a producer, his latest feature films include Selma Vilhunen’s Little Wing, Klaus Härö’s Golden Globe-nominated The Fencer, and Law of the Land by Jussi Hiltunen.
What subject or theme do you pursue at your filmmaking company?
We work both on fiction and documentary films. It is more about the story, and how it wants to tell or try to tell the story, so it is very difficult to define. It is more about the angle to the subject or point of view. Somebody tells me the topic or sends me the synopsis, and if I understand it, there is a possibility to make that.
What do you think about Iranian cinema and films?
I am not an expert of Iranian films, but I do like them. I usually see Iranian films in the Cannes Film Festival. I like the Iranian dramas, the structure of the stories, and the way they unfolds. It is also interesting the way they naturally and organically move forward, and I like the moral dilemmas that people confront. It is good somebody remind us, westerners, that there are moral dilemmas in the world.
Ever thought about producing a documentary about Iran?
Actually I have. I would be interested in, if it is possible to make a documentary about Iran’s politics, and religion too.
Do you think sanctions against Iran can be an obstacle to interaction with Finnish cinema?
Well, I don’t think sanctions could affect that at all. It has anything to do with cultural interaction or cooperation between producers of the production companies. So i think joint film productions with Iran are possible. Films and cultures are not part of the sanctions. Of course, it will be difficult to send money from Europe to Iran, because the banks don’t work together, but I think it should be possible for me to work here and vice versa.
Aalto: I want to work with Iranian female directors
Reeta Aalto (b. 1976) is a director and writer, known for Girls' Night (2008), To Live, to Exist (2007) and Tottumiskysymys (2019). She is a graduate student in the Aalto University, School of Art and Design, Department of Motion Picture, Television and Production Design, majoring in documentary film.
You made lots of short films. It's interesting to know you also have women-oriented films.
Well, so far I made mostly short films and documentaries, both fiction and documentary. In general, I am interested in human rights and women rights but also the rights of sexual and gender minorities for example, but it doesn’t mean that all my films are very political or straight forward. I am also interested in telling touching and interesting stories so.
How familiar are you with Iranian cinema?
I have seen a lot of Iranian films. Actually, when I was studying my professor was very keen on watching Iranian films. And we watched a lot.
How about attending Iranian film festivals like Fajr International Film Festival?
I would like to, but i think most of my films would not be accepted to screen in Iran because of the subject matter, which is unfortunate. For example, my latest film that just premiered in Finland on is about the woman’s things and it would be very interesting to show it here and maybe talk with local female directors, if they would like to do something similar here .it is about things that every woman experiences at some point in her life. It is about harassment and all kinds of things that annoy women.
How would you interact with Iranian female directors?
Well, I can’t promise to make a film especially for Iranian market, because you know, making a film is difficult. However, if it is possible for me to work with Iranian filmmakers or producers, I’m very interested. I have full faith in Iranian people and filmmakers, and I’m very interested in working together, especially making film about the women.
By Dorsa Bakhshandegi