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"I documentari sono come l'analogia del sole di Platone"

Rapporto industria: Documentario

Isabella Karhu • Produttrice Danish Bear Productions


La produttrice finlandese parla di come i documentari ci illuminano e dei progetti che ha in cantiere

Isabella Karhu  • Produttrice Danish Bear Productions

Questo articolo è disponibile in inglese.

An interview with Isabella Karhu, producer for Finnish company Danish Bear Production, now selected for the 2024 Emerging Producers programme. Read her EP profile here.

Why do you produce documentaries? Do you see documentary cinema as an instrument of social and political change?
Isabella Karhu: What really speaks to me about documentaries is that they teach us more about this world of ours – and also about ourselves. Personally I feel that documentaries are like Plato's Analogy of the Sun; by shining their light on us, they can expand our knowledge in a positive, collective way by also opening our minds for further understanding and empathy towards one another, thus consequently bringing us closer together as humankind.

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Rather than seeing documentary cinema as a direct instrument for change, I feel that it works as a necessary medium: through the power of storytelling, we can awaken people to see possible injustices around them, which in turn can lead to building the life around us towards a better future.

How do you achieve and maintain work-life balance and foster overall well-being?
I'm an entrepreneur and work for my own company, so keeping the workload separate from family life is an ongoing struggle. Also, at the moment in Finland, the competition for public film funds is severe, especially since our main financier, the Finnish Film Foundation, just had a big budget cut from the government. Therefore, thoughts like "how to secure both our company's and my own personal future" are in my mind almost daily, and I know that I'm not the only filmmaker in Finland with these kinds of thoughts. The only way to get everyone's livelihood to a more sustainable level would be for the Finnish government to increase the film fund's budget, not lower it. Meanwhile, what one can mostly do is just keep on doing one's best by continuing to make good films and letting the political decision-makers see the value and impact of our work both domestically and also on the international field. In the meantime, the best personal remedy for coping with the challenges of our industry is to get silly with your child, take your dog for a long, nice walk, and just lie on the sofa with your loved one for a while.

Where do you find audiences for your films?
Reaching the right audience for each film needs some work but is at the same time very rewarding. Nothing beats the feeling when someone who just saw the film comes to you after the screening, just to tell you how they liked it. They have no imperative to do that, so for them taking the time to do it really means a lot to me – to know that the film has made an impact.

Along with festivals and theater screenings, we tend to do grassroots marketing by sending information about the film to associations, groups, and NGO's we feel might like to see the film. For the domestic theater distribution, we usually also arrange for panel discussions with theme-related experts that the audience can enjoy after seeing the film in order to elevate their experience even further.

What projects do you have underway?
At the moment, we have many good things in the works: a documentary in post-production about the last gold miners in Finland and of their time coming to an end – The Last Misfits by the Golden River (working title), directed by Juho-Pekka Tanskanen – and another documentary about hospice volunteers and our need to understand death – How We Die (working title) by director Rabbe Sandström. We have recently expanded to fiction too and are finishing a short stop motion animation about a lonely little girl and a monster living under her bed (directed by yours truly), and we are also developing our first fiction feature (directed by Juho-Pekka Tanskanen) that tells the story of a dysfunctional family who lives and works together while traveling around Finland. Along with these, we have just acquired rights to a fiction TV series and have several other shorter and longer projects in early development, so we are keeping ourselves busy and cannot wait to get to share these projects with the world!


EMERGING PRODUCERS is a leading promotional and educational project, which brings together talented European documentary film producers. The programme is organised and curated by the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival.

Deadline for applications to the EMERGING PRODUCERS 2025 edition is 31st March 2024.

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