Tom of Finland aims to impress at the Oscars
by Jorn Rossing Jensen
- Dome Karukoski’s portrait of Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen will be Finland’s submission for the Oscar nomination for Best Foreign-language Film
Finnish director Dome Karukoski’s Tom of Finland [+see also:
interview: Dome Karukoski
film profile], which opened this year’s Göteborg International Film Festival and has been shortlisted for the 2017 European Film Awards, was yesterday (4 September) selected by Finland’s Oscar Committee to be the Finnish submission for the Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign-language Film.
“It is a beautiful portrait of one of the most internationally famous Finns, a wonderfully designed and shot period piece,” said the committee, which especially commended Finnish lead actor Pekka Strang’s interpretation of the unique life of Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen.
“They called it filth – it became a revolution” is the tagline for the film biography of the artist, the “most influential creator of gay pornographic images”, according to US culture historian Joseph W Slade. Born in 1920 in Kaarina, Southwest Finland, to teacher parents, he moved to Helsinki in 1939 to study advertising and began drawing erotic images for his own pleasure.
“Actually, I thought Laaksonen was American – he looked American, and Finland was not one of his biggest markets. I first learned that he was Finnish when he died in 1991,” recalled Karukoski, who was approached by Finnish screenwriter-producer Aleksi Bardy with the idea of making a film about him. Bardy eventually scripted it and produced it for Helsinki Filmi.
“During the 20-23 years he was working at an advertising agency in Helsinki, he would live out his passion at night, drawing his utopia and fantasia. When he moved to Los Angeles, he could make it his daily routine – it must have been a revolutionary moment when he realised that. What has surprised me is that his story is news to so many people,” Karukoski concluded.
Told from a Finnish perspective, Tom of Finland tackles the historic worldwide struggle of the homosexual community for equal human rights. After serving his country in World War II, Laaksonen returned to a bleak and conservative post-war Finland, where homosexuality was illegal. As a result, both his sexual encounters and his drawings had to remain a secret.
Karukoski’s latest film before this, The Grump [+see also:
film profile] (2014), became the fourth Finnish movie since 2000 to exceed 400,000 tickets sold: its 458,637 admissions controlled 27% of the local market. He is currently preparing to shoot his first English-language film, Tolkien, the biopic of British author JRR Tolkien, scripted by David Gleeson with Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins in the leads, and produced by Fox Searchlight and Chemin Entertainment.
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