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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Finland / Sweden / Norway

In Golden Land, the search for wealth can lead to finding your own identity instead

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- Inka Achté's upcoming documentary will show how it really feels to be sitting on a gold mine

In Golden Land, the search for wealth can lead to finding your own identity instead
Golden Land by Inka Achté (© napafilms)

About to be shown to the participants in Göteborg's Nordic Film Market, the Finnish-Swedish-Norwegian co-production Golden Land closes in on Mustafe and his family, who, after 25 years in Finland, decide to go back to Somaliland after it's revealed that the land they own – or, rather, what it is hiding – may change their lives forever. Produced by napafilms, with CAT&Docs already attached as a sales agent, the film is now in late post-production, ready to premiere in the spring of 2021.

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“A few years ago, I was making another documentary, and that's when I first got in touch with Mustafe. We became friends, and then he started telling me about his plans involving a gold mine in Africa,” co-writer Hanna Karppinen explains to Cineuropa. “He was the most regular Finnish father, living in the suburbs. He moved here when he was around ten years old. It all sounded too crazy, for a family man to suddenly do something like that.”

It wasn't just a pipe dream, though, with concrete evidence seemingly proving that the land was blessed with mineral riches coming straight from a Finnish laboratory. Which is not to say there weren't surprises in store. “What was unexpected, and what happens in the film, was that the government has changed,” adds Inka Achté, who took over directorial duties once Karppinen got pregnant and was unable to travel. “Somali culture is structured around a clan system, and the government didn't want his clan to get rich or gain any power, least of all political. He wasn't prepared for what he found there.”

Currently looking for festivals and distribution, the project quickly garnered attention. “When Inka came to me with the story, I don't think I had ever been able to get the whole thing off the ground so fast,” adds producer Liisa Karpo, of napafilms. “The financing process was also surprisingly smooth because the story is just so incredible. Upon hearing it for the first time, everyone would go: 'What?!'”

And yet, despite all the tribulations, it wasn't Mustafe's search for wealth that ultimately anchored the film, but rather the identity crisis experienced by his freshly uprooted family. Needless to say, Karppinen's previous relationships proved indispensable when approaching a closed community. “Somalis, at least in Finland, don't really want to show their lives. They are afraid to be judged. Mustafe's wife was against it, too, but then they decided to show this existence in between two different cultures. Maybe that's why the film was easy to finance – you don't get to see that very often.”

“It's a prominent part of the story,” agrees Achté. “There is one daughter who is rebelling against his plan a lot: she is holding onto her Finnish identity. I would say she is the central character in the film. There is one scene in the car, with the older girl saying that they are more Somali, because they are brown. But their father goes: 'Can't you be Finnish if you have brown skin? Maybe we are both?' I think that's the conclusion.”

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