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Dome Karukoski brings gay artist Tom of Finland to the big screen


- The Finnish director is preparing his first English-language feature – an official biopic of Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen

Dome Karukoski brings gay artist Tom of Finland to the big screen
Director Dome Karukoski

Finnish director Dome Karukoski – whose 2014 comedy The Grump [+see also:
film profile
, about a die-hard old man facing the changing world, became the fourth Finnish movie since 2000 to exceed 400,000 admissions – will next February shoot his first English-language feature, a biopic of homosexual Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen, aka Tom of Finland

Karukoski himself scripted The Grump, which sold 458,637 tickets – almost ¼ of all admissions for local fare – and snagged a Jussi, Finland’s national film prize (Best Actor, for Antti Litja). This time he will work with Finnish producer Aleksi Bardy (who won the Jussi Award for Best Film with J-P Valkeapää’s They Have Escaped [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: J-P Valkeapää
film profile

Bardy has also written the screenplay for Tom of Finland, which he will produce with Miia Haavisto and Annika Sucksdorff, for Helsinki Filmi, and international partners yet to be announced. Developed with Los Angeles’ Tom of Finland Foundation, the €3.8 million project has been supported by the Finnish Film Foundation (€0.8 million) and the Nordisk Film & TV Fond (€240,000).

“They called it filth – it became a revolution” is the tagline for the official film biography of the Finnish 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. In 1956, he submitted his first works to US magazine Physique Pictorial, where he became the cover artist. Over four decades he produced approximately 3,500 “emphatically masculine, homoerotic drawings”, which attained iconic status in their genre, influencing pop culture and fashion. In 1980, his photographer friend Robert Mapplethorpe helped him to get his first major exhibition in New York.

“His emblematic, larger-than-life drawn phalluses threaten not only the existing symbolic order of heterosexuality, but also reorganise the principles by which (homo)sexual desires are structured,” concluded New York’s Artists Space, which in September closed the so-far largest exhibition examining Tom of Finland’s career.

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