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FESTIVALS / AWARDS Finland

At Espoo Ciné, watching films still is a social event

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- Sandwiched in between some of the best European titles from last year, Aalto and Forest Giant will get a splashy Gala Premiere treatment at the Finnish festival

At Espoo Ciné, watching films still is a social event
Ville Jankeri's Forest Giant

Set to kick off in September due to the pandemic, Finland’s Espoo Ciné will still show its local audience some of the most acclaimed titles of the past months. Starting with Christian Petzold’s rather unorthodox take on the myth of Undine [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Christian Petzold
film profile
]
, chosen as this year’s opening film, and followed by the who-is-who of European cinema: from Corneliu Porumboiu, bringing The Whistlers, to the Dardenne brothers, Claude Lelouch and finally Marco Bellocchio, whose film The Traitor [+see also:
film review
trailer
Q&A: Marco Bellocchio
film profile
]
will close the event. “This is a very special year, and our programme is considerably smaller than it normally is. As usual, our films are for the most part local premieres and because of this year’s smaller scale, there is perhaps a larger part of more established names in the programme,” Head of Programming Mickael Suominen explains to Cineuropa. “At the same time, of the feature-length films, over 20% are debut films, and 80% of these debuts are directed by women.” Such as Jeanette Nordahl’s acclaimed Wildland [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Jeanette Nordahl
film profile
]
or Elisa Mishto’s Stay Still [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
, to name just two.

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But Finnish films will also get their due, with Virpi Suutari’s documentary Aalto [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
(about the life and work of a modernist architect Alvar Aalto and his wife Aino) and Ville Jankeri’s Forest Giant [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
leading the way. “What makes Aalto so special is that the film makes it so obvious that, also in architecture, it always takes more than a solitary giant to achieve impressive results,” says Suominen. “As for Forest Giant, it’s a long-awaited adaptation of a Finnish bestseller novel by Miika Nousiainen, the story of a protagonist forced to choose between his career and his loyalty to his small hometown. We have followed Ville Jankeri’s career ever since his debut feature Six-Pack [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, which had its premiere at the festival. We are very glad to have him back!” “I remember that first public screening of Six-Pack nine years ago,” adds the director. “I was nervously waiting for the first ever Q&A to start, and at the same time I was on the phone – trying to cancel my credit card, which was stolen. Not at the festival though, so I have been happy to visit Espoo Ciné every year since. It’s great to have the film’s preview again with them.” Finally, There Will Be Spring [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by Annika Grof will be shown as well, telling the story of a woman forced to escape from Karelia to Finland during World War II. It is the very first feature shot in the Livvi-Karelian language, as underlined by Suominen, nowadays spoken mostly in Russia.

Accompanied by Junior Ciné (directed at younger viewers) as well as special all-night screenings (organised for the first time in its 31-year history), the festival was originally scheduled to take place in the spring. “Working on this year’s edition has been very peculiar,” admits Suominen. “We almost had our whole programme ready when it turned out that, scheduled to take place in early May, it had to be postponed. It meant for example that unfortunately, this year’s edition had to be considerably shorter.” But regardless of the hurdles, moving the whole event online was simply not an option. “At the moment, we get everyday queries concerning safety precautions. People are interested in getting back to cinemas, but at the same time, many are cautious of the COVID-19 situation. We take these concerns very seriously, but in the end it’s for local authorities to set the rules by which we operate,” he says. “We like to think that a film festival is something that happens in a dark screening hall with a big screen and other people around you. After all, watching films is a social event!” Get ready to mingle — from a safe distance, of course.

Espoo Ciné will take place from 2-6 September.

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