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BERLINALE 2012 Market / Finland

From Princess to doped skiers, both in fact and fiction for Halonen


From Princess to doped skiers, both in fact and fiction for Halonen

The 2001 Lahti World Championships in Finland was supposed to expose the glory of Finnish skiing, a cornerstone in the country’s self-esteem. Instead it turned out as a disaster, when an entire group of skiers tested positive for doping, and the head coach was banned from the sport for life.

“The event revealed the systematic and long-term history of the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs in the sport, but also the hypocrisy of a community that demands heroes and needs to create champions at any cost,” said Finnish director Arto Halonen (pictured). “It has always fascinated me, and I have wanted to document it and start a discussion which will change things for the better.”

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After three years of research and filming, Halonen will launch his When Heroes Lie in October, a €300,000 dramatised documentary, scripted with Jouni Kemppainen and Kevin Frazer, and produced by himself for his own Art Films Production, with local pubcaster YLE and backed by the Finnish Film Foundation.

“Everybody knows it happens, but nobody talks about it – now is the time to come clean. We have been very meticulous in our research, so if anyone will sue us, we can prove every detail of the rotten, doping-ridden history of skiing we disclose. However, we also came upon some second-hand reports, which were simply incredible, and unusable in a documentary on a sensitive subject.”

Instead Halonen, currently attending the Berlinale’s European Film Market, decided to folllow up When Heroes Lie with the €2-2.5 million A Patriotic Man, a drama-comedy based on the subject set in the 1980s. So far Norway’s Filmcamp Nord and Mer Film are attached to the project, which he plans to shoot for a Christmas 2013 premiere.

His first feature, Princess (2010), took 300,000 admissions domestically, selling 50,000 DVDs; French international sales outfit, Albany Films, have licensed the film to Aramis Films for France Benelux and Switzerland, adding Estonia and South Korea. US production company, W2Media, is packaging an American remake of the psychiatric hospital drama.

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