Potato Venture promises to make root vegetables great again
by Marta Bałaga
- The upcoming Finnish underdog story by Joona Tena will see the humble potato in the lead role
Currently scheduled to premiere locally in October, Joona Tena’s Potato Venture [+see also:
film profile] (not to be confused with Mike Newell’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society [+see also:
film profile] nor with Sex Lives of the Potato Men, now blissfully forgotten) revolves around a 17th-century “start-up” entrepreneur, trying his best to launch a potato in Finland. It’s no easy task at a time when people are still hell-bent on eating turnips.
“In Finland, the late 16th and the early 17th century was when the Middle Ages ended and the modern era began. A new social estate with new money, the bourgeoisie, started to gain social power previously reserved for the nobility,” explains the director, most recently seen helming the children’s film Super Furball, about a girl transforming into a superhero after being bitten by her guinea pig, à la Spider-Man. “The idea is to juxtapose this with our time, when small start-up companies are challenging well-established corporations – usually run by older men, unwilling to give up their power. In this story, a poor young boy has this idea of introducing a revolutionary new “hi-tech” vegetable – potato – into the stagnant field of agriculture. In real Finnish history, the potato was accepted as a food much later on, so our heroes are fighting an uphill battle. As do all modern start-ups, however brilliant their ideas might be.”
Despite seeming as “historically accurate” as Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the film fully acknowledges its period setting. “It’s more like Monty Python but with a lot of fact-based details,” says screenwriter Pekko Pesonen, a two-time Jussi winner for Lapland Odyssey [+see also:
film profile], which morphed into a successful trilogy, and the 2016 drama The Mine [+see also:
film profile]. “At that time, the potato was a big disruption to the food market, but it was a long fight to make people realise its importance. The main idea was to transfer a modern start-up venture into the Middle Ages, so they are speaking this specific jargon with some Latin twists.” Joona Tena also found the combination of the past and the present alluring. “Of course, the film is a comedy, first and foremost. But it’s actually quite carefully constructed – with an anachronistic twist. The language and problems faced by our heroes derive from the 21st-century start-up world, but the background is all about the 17th century, from our sets to the props to the costumes. It’s not like we are mixing up all possible eras.”
Starring Joonas Nordman, Kari Hietalahti, Kari Ketonen and Mikko Penttilä, Potato Venture tries to address some current issues along the way, too. “The story is about growing up as a human, not only as an entrepreneur,” says Tena. “The film makes a point of showing great social inequality and unfairness, happening both back then and now, and hints at women rising from obscurity into positions of power, which is actually more topical in Finnish culture today than it was when we started the project.” There is one more wrong that it will try to right, however. “In addition to hopefully being an entertaining movie, Potato Venture can also serve as a good reminder for all of us in these crazy times,” adds producer Marko Talli, of Yellow Film & TV, who two years ago enjoyed critical success with the biopic The Ragged Life of Juice Leskinen [+see also:
film profile]. “As a root vegetable, the potato is a versatile product. It’s local food, unlike rice or pasta, but it has been a bit underrated lately. It deserves to be trendy again.”
You can see the official poster for the film and watch the trailer below:
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