What gave you the idea to curate this programme and how did you choose the films?
Antti: Finnish cinema has remained relatively unknown to international audiences. I followed Ehsan’s suggestion of drawing up a list of my all-time favorite films, and together we then expanded the list and started a process of turning ideal scenarios into reality. We had to think of our international audience and leave out films that had no subtitles.
Ehsan: We look at the films from different angles, which is important. From a foreigner’s point of view I see beauty and a side to Finnish films that Finns necessarily don’t, partly because I don’t speak the language.
Do you have a personal favourite among the films of this season?
Ehsan: I’d say Peter von Bagh’s Helsinki, Forever. You want to familiarize yourself with something new. I admire Peter’s work and our programme is inspired by his book, Drifting Shadows: A Guide to the Finnish Cinema.
Antti: My favourite films are always the ones I have just seen. Of this season, Kaisa’s Enchanted Forest by Katja Gauriloff is very special as it represents indigenous cinema and is based on true events.
Are there any specific features or characteristics that you like the most about Finnish films?
Ehsan: I’ve noticed that many films often have strong female characters, and what is unique about Finnish cinema is the almost unconscious fluidity of genres and subplots. You never know what to expect! Within one film there can be features of comedy, drama and action.
Antti: When it comes to war films, The Unknown Soldier is unique as it includes all stages of war and represents all types of soldiers. It also paints the map of Finland within dialogue.
What does it take to curate a programme like this?
Ehsan: We were lucky as The National Audiovisual Institute in Finland is responsible for archiving audiovisual material, such as films. That means they are largely accessible. The only problem is that not many films have English subtitles, which makes it harder to reach international audiences.
Antti: The survival rate of old films is very high in Finland as the conditions are good, the climate is cool enough and the level of dedication is of rare quality.
The project has received financial support from the Finnish Institute in London.
Drifting Shadows: Masterpieces of Finnish Cinema, 18/1–30/1/2019 at Close-Up Film Centre, 97 Sclater Street, London E1 6HR
Tickets £10, fees apply
Text: Essi Miettunen Photo: Gustaf Sandberg & Svenska litteratursällskapet