“Americans have destroyed the myth of Finnish Santa before me. It’s payback time!”
by Annika Pham
- Jalmari Helander is among Finland’s hottest new directors. His scary version of Santa Claus in his feature debut, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, has thrilled industry people over the last year
Finnish commercials director Jalmari Helander created a sensation on the web with his wickedly humorous short films Rare Exports Inc (2003) and Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions (2005) in which naked Santa Clauses are captured and sold worldwide. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale [+see also:
interview: Jalmari Helander
film profile], his feature-length treatment of the subject, has already won several international awards and is coming out simultaneously in several world territories.
Cineuropa: What are your personal recollections of Christmas and were you afraid of Santa?
Jalmari Helander: Yes, I sure was. In Finland the tradition is that Santa comes to every home on Christmas Eve. When I first saw Santa I was very scared. I think every child is. It is an instinctive reaction, like against spiders or snakes.
Why did you choose to bring down the myth of the good and friendly Santa Claus?
Americans have destroyed the myth of the Finnish Santa before me. Now it’s payback time!
What were the main challenges when you wrote this feature-length version of your two short cult films?
My first decision was not to stretch the idea of the short films. I knew that I had to invent something new, with just a small link to the shorts. So, it was quite a big job and I am really happy it turned out to be like it is now.
Why did you decide to tell the story from a child’s perspective?
In the first versions the father of Pietari, the young boy, was the main character. I soon realized that it is much more emotional to have a child’s perspective. After all, the movie is about Santa!
Was it because you’re catering to 13+ audiences that you chose not to push harder on the gore and horror elements?
No. I don’t like horror films very much. And I hate gore. The movie is just the way I always have imagined it. Maybe I am a childish man.
As a first-time feature director, what did you find the most challenging during filming? Was it comforting to work with much of the same cast and crew as for your short films?
Actually the shooting and the post-production were quite similar to my short films although, of course, on a larger scale. I just had more scenes and shooting days and made each scene the best I could. The script was the most challenging, I think. It took a lot of time and sitting to have it ready.
Why do you think your film has become such a quick hit amongst world buyers?
I have heard it’s very original and hard to compare with any other film. I think the world needs new ideas.
There was a nice satire of Christmas consumerism in your short films. Will you develop this aspect in a possible