The Eternal Road towards Finland’s centenary celebration
by Jorn Rossing Jensen
- Finnish director Antti-Jussi Annila is shooting his third feature – a historical drama – in Tallinn, Estonia
On Monday 20 June, Finnish writer-director Antti-Jussi Annila started principal photography for his third feature, the historical drama The Eternal Road, which will be launched on 22 September 2017 as part of Finland 100 – the celebration of Finland’s independence from Russia in 1917. On 6 December that year, Finland declared itself an independent republic, after having been an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia since 1809. The Finland 100 Years state organisation will organise the official functions of the celebration under the theme of “Togetherness”, including a film programme.
A star-studded Nordic cast headed up by Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudsen and Finnish actor Tommi Korpela, and also including Ville Virtanen, Jonna Järnefelt, Hannu-Pekka Björkman, Helen Söderqvist, Hendrik Toompere, Sampo Sarkola, Irina Björklund, Antti Virmavirta, Lembit Ulfsak, Emmi Parviainen and Eedit Patrakka, will perform in The Eternal Road, an adaptation of Finnish author Antti Tuuri’s bestselling 2011 novel.
Based on true events, The Eternal Road is being staged as a co-production by Finnish producer Ilkka Matila, of MRP Matila Röhr Productions, with Sweden’s Martin Person, of Person Anagram, and Estonia’s Kristian Taska, of Taska Film. Nordisk Film Finland will handle the local distribution.
“It is about time we got the chance to honour the memory of those people who followed their idealism to a strange country and died there, betrayed and forgotten,” explained Matila, who has 27 Finnish films to his credit. “Silenced stories are an important part of the identity of all nations. The time always comes when they have to be told because it helps us to understand ourselves and our future.”
The Eternal Road was the route that Finnish right-wing extremists used in 1930 when they forcibly transported communists, or people they believed to be communists, to and across the Soviet border. One of them was Jussi Ketola, who had just returned to Finland after working in America.
Originally, the abductors intended to shoot him, but he escaped – and in the Soviet Union, the state police set him up with a new identity, a job at a collective farm and even a new wife. Together with American immigrants, he was involved in building a workers’ paradise in Karelia, but with Stalin’s purges, it was turned into a living hell. Ketola would rather have taken a bullet in his head than live, but he was not allowed to die.