Winner of the Nordic Film Award in Haugseund, the Finnish/Swedish co-production Raspberry Boat Refugee is released today by Nordisk Film on nearly 200 Finnish screens, a week before it opens in Sweden. The producer Ilkka Matila (Matila Röhr Productions) had the idea to adapt Miika Nousiainen’s book and make it a warm-hearted comedy, not only about cultural differences between neighbouring countries but also about finding oneself.

In Raspberry Boat Refugee, the main character Mikko Virtanen feels like a cultural transvestite, a Swede trapped in a Finnish body. He hates everything Finnish and longs for a true Swedish life. When fate puts him in the presence of the suicidal Swedish psychologist Mikael Anderson, he grabs the opportunity to switch identity with the depressed Swede.

“The book which became a best-selling novel in Finland and was adapted for theatre, was actually much darker,” continues Matila. “It was also more understandable to Finns than Swedes, so we worked for more than five years on the script, with five different writers, to lift the comedy side and make the story more accessible both to Swedes and Finns but also to an international audience.”

The Swedish born director Leif Lindblom of Finnish origin felt like the ideal person for Matila and the director immediately warmed up to the script that felt close to his own story. Then having a Swedish actor for the main part was just self-evident for the producer. “We wanted a Swedish actor because the main character is a Swedish man born in a Finnish body”, stresses Matila.

Jonas Karlsson accepted the part early on and took on the challenge of looking and sounding like a true Finn speaking Swedish. He also put his own touch on the final script. “The film is very much a Jonas Karlsson show. We were very lucky to get him and because of the high quality of the acting, we were able to bring other top Scandinavian actors on board,” says Matila. Other cast members include Josephine Bornebusch, Frida Hallgren, Erik Johansson and Tommi Korpela.

Patrick Ryborn from Eyeworks Film & TV Drama joined the project as Swedish co-producer. “I liked the story since it is universal and it could take place anywhere. We also saw the possibility to make a funny, different comedy, with a crazy love story, and the possibility to make a film that could work both in Sweden and Finland.”

Matila also feels Raspberry Boat Refugee should work outside of Scandinavia. He draws parallels to his previous production, Klaus Härö’s Mother of Mine [2006 Finnish entry at the Academy Awards] that also dealt with the search for identity and had a similar structure, with flashbacks from past to present.