Country Focus: Finland
Finnish cinema looking outwards
by Annika Pham, Cineuropa
10/05/2010 - FINLAND: KEY FIGURES
Population: 5.3 million
Admissions 2009: 6.7 million
Local films market share 2009: 15%
Finnish Films released in 2009: 15
Average budget: €1.4 million
The Finnish film industry is increasingly looking beyond its borders – and even outside the Nordic region-for co-financing. This outward-looking trend has been fuelled by the limitations of the domestic market and filmmakers and producers’ greater artistic ambitions and talent at networking.
Aki Kaurismäki, the most internationally celebrated Finnish filmmaker, is currently working in France on his long awaited new feature film Le Havre, shot in French. Last winter, the up-and-coming Saara Saarela was hired to direct the French film La Vénitienne starring Thierry Frémont. In the upcoming months, Ilkka Järvilaturi (History is Made at Night) will be directing Tony Leung in the Chinese action movie Kiss, His First while Hollywood-based Antti J. Jokinen (The Resident) and Renny Harlin will be bringing major international projects to Finland, the €16m Nicolas North starring Julianne Moore, and €13m historical film Mannerheim, respectively.
Petri Kemppinen, Head of Production at the Finnish Film Foundation, confirmed that more Finnish projects have international financing involvement today. Seven out of this year’s scheduled 20 releases in Finland are co-productions. Within Europe, the neighbouring Sweden, Estonia, and Norway are the most active co-production countries, but also Germany. New partners include Ireland and Italy.
Limited domestic market
Various factors explain the upward trend in Finnish co-productions over the last three years. First of all, for Finnish talent and producers with greater artistic ambitions, the local theatrical market simply remains too narrow. Catching a movie on a big screen is not high on the agenda of Finnish people (the average cinema visit per year is 1.3), and only a handful of local titles among the 15-20 new releases a year manage to find a place in the Top 20. Although Finland had been enjoying a larger share of the domestic market over the last three years, with a 23% record in 2008, 2009 was back to the 2005 level of 15%. In 2009, the biggest local hit was the gangster film Hellsinki [trailer] by Aleksi Mäkelä (over 256,000 admissions), produced by Solar Films, Finland’s ‘Working Title’. Three other films that performed well domestically also caught the attention of international festivals: Mika Kaurismäki’s marital farce The House of Branching Love [trailer], Dome Karukoski’s youth drama Forbidden Fruit [trailer] and Klaus Härö’s Letters to Father Jacob [trailer].
Genre films and animation
In the meantime, the economic crisis has made it even more difficult to raise money on the domestic market, forcing producers with bigger projects (above the average €1.5m budget) to find co-financing abroad. Such is the case with the €2m fantasy film Rare Exports (co-produced with Norway, Sweden and France) and the €5m sci-fi spoof project Iron Sky (co-produced with Germany). In the animation sector, Finnish films requiring European creative and financial collaboration have been very successful in reaching world markets (Niko & the Way to the Stars [trailer] sold over 1.6m tickets worldwide) and several projects will soon follow, such as the Finnish/Polish Moomin and the Comet Chase, launched in Cannes, and the upcoming The Magic Crystal, co-produced with Belgium and Italy. Apart from animation, documentary films such as Freetime Machos by Mika Ronkainen and Reindeerspotting by Joonas Neuvonen have also started to sell internationally, next to quality auteur films from Aleksi Salmenperä (Bad Family [trailer]), Klaus Härö (Letters to Father Jacob [trailer]) and genre films (Sauna [trailer] by AJ Annila). In general terms, over the last decade Finnish producers have been better at networking and working the financial systems in Europe. Cannes will again provide them with new opportunities to forge new relationships with foreign partners.
FIVE NEW FILMMAKERS TO WATCH
- Marja Pyyköö (35). The daughter of Nadja Pyykkö, one of Finland's most established assistant directors, Marja has been on film sets since the age of 14. Her feature debut, the coming-of-age Run, Sister Run (Solar Films), has already received strong word of mouth, ahead of its domestic release on August 20, 2010.
- Jalmari Helander (34). His feature debut Rare Exports is a fantasy film that revisits the myth of Santa Claus and is based on his two cult shorts. The Cinet Film production will open for Christmas in Finland. (Kinology)
- Zaida Bergroth (33). A graduate of the FAMU film school in Prague, her feature debut Last Cowboy Standing [trailer] won Best Screenplay at the 2009 Jussi Awards. (M-Appeal)
- Joonas Neuvonen (30). Film over a year, his debut documentary Reindeerspotting, produced by Bronson Club, features his best friend, a drug addict, and is a surprise hit for a documentary in Finland. (Autlook Film Sales).
- Saara Cantell (42). Her second feature Heartbeats (2009) tells the stories of seven women’s destinies, filmed in single takes. It won the Baltic Film Prize at the latest Nordic Film Festival in Lübeck.