Outstanding female talents were celebrated at Helsinki’s industry event where half of the 25 Finnish projects pitched were female directed.

On Wednesday evening’s closing ceremony of Finnish Film Affair at Helsinki’s popular restaurant/sauna Löyly, One-Off Incident was handed out the coveted €3,000 Best Project Award, celebrating the Fiction in Progress with the biggest international potential.

The project produced by Tuffi Films, will be a feature film, a collection of 10 short films, and an impact campaign to raise awareness on the invisible exercise of power used towards women, both in private and public circles. The Tuffi Films initiative had already won Best Pitch Project Award at Haugesund’s recent Nordic Co-Production and Finance Market. This is the company’s second Finnish Film Affair-Best Project Award in a row, after their 2017 pitch for Selma Vilhunen’s Stupid Young Heart, opening film of this year’s industry event.

Jury members Mark Adams (Edinburgh International Film Festival), Agneta Perman (SVT), Steven Bestwick (The Yellow Affair) said they picked On-Off Incident from seven strong Fictions in Progress, ‘for its timeless and well-thought out strategy, for providing potential for similar projects in other countries, for the potential to engage an audience to continue the discussion."

Three of the 12 female directors associated to One-Off Incident - Miia Tervo, Inari Niemi and Jenni Toivoniemi- had also individual feature projects that attracted much attention from international industry delegates. Tervo’s debut film Aurora (previously pitched at Haugesund’s New Nordic Films) was the second favourite Fiction in progress, for its story-a warm and humorous love relationship between an Iranian asylum seeker and a party animal girl in Finnish Lapland- and strong personal pitch by the director and producer Max Malka.

Among the 12 Fictions in Development, Games that People Play by Jenni Toivoniemi (Sundance short film winner with The Date) is a comedy drama about a group of old friends regressing to their teenage roles during a holiday weekend together. In the ensemble cast is Border actor  Eero Milonoff. The film is produced by Tuffi Films, in co-production with HOBAB (Sweden) and Poland’s Match & Spark.

Light Light Light by Inari Niemi (Summertime) written by her sister Juuli Niemi, is a powerful story of first love between two teen girls in 1986 Western Finland, watched in retrospect two decades later by one of the protagonists. The €1.2m project produced by Lucy Loves Drama’s Oskari Huttu, is set to start production in the spring 2019.

Other buzzed fiction projects in development were Memory of Water by Saara Saarela (Bufo), My Sailor, My Love by Klaus Härö (Making Movies), The Oasis of Now by Hamy Ramezan (Aamu Filmi) and the horror flick The Twin by Taneli Mustonen (Don Films).

Two strong Docs in development also attracted interest: Future Remains by Anna-Karin Grönroos (Parad Production), about the power of idealism through the story of Henrik Wahlforss, an industrial designer who believed design can change the future, as well as The Happy Worker by award-winning John Webster (Yellow Film & TV), investigating the link between the office workplace and happiness.

Several industry delegates attending for the first time, said they were impressed by the quality of the pitches, variety of titles on offer, as well as the relaxed and professional Finnish Film Affair set up. Lauren Valmadre, Sales Manager at LevelK said: “several projects showed a very strong connection between the director and producer, a key ingredient to make a great film. There was a mix of promising talents and established directors, so the future looks bright for Finnish Cinema.”

Steven Bestwick, Head of Sales & Business at the sales outfit The Yellow Affair had 1-2 projects in mind and enjoyed discovering new Finnish talents. Cats & Docs’s Festival Manager and Acquisitions Maëlle Guenegues said it was worthwhile attending Finnish Film Affair to track upcoming docs and have an overview of what’s coming from Finland.

Industry panels held during the 7th Finnish Film Affair included ‘Doing Business with China’ and two actors-focused panels: ‘Unveiling the Casting process’ with top international agents and casting directors, and a ‘Peer-to Peer-All Actors’ panel with Norway’s Rune Temte (Captain Marvel), Sweden’s Hanna Alström (Kingsman: The secret Service), Sweden/Norway’s Amalia Holm (Alena), Sweden’s Edvin Endre (Vikings) and Finland’s Samuli Vauramo (Unknown Soldier).

Finnish Film Affair was held parallel to the 31st Helsinki International Film Festival, closing on Sunday.

Full line up of Finnish works in progress pitched in Helsinki.
Fiction in Progress:

  • Diva of Finland by newcomer Maria K. Mononen, produced by Silva Mysterium. Henna has a fixation on her friend Silja and is envious of her, until an incident reverses the girl’s situations, forcing Henna to show empathy and her true self. Finnish release: November 2018. 
  • Time Out by Matti Kinnunen (Miss Blue Jeans) produced by Vegetarian Films. The comedy drama tells of father and son, who move to a small Finnish village, trying to make a fresh start. Unexpected events turn their plans upside down. Scheduled domestic release: March 2019. 
  • One-Off Incident, a collection of short films, feature film and web project backed by an impact campaign to raise awareness on female harassment and discrimination. Directors involved include Reetta Aalto, Maryan Abdulkarim, Alli Haapasalo, Sonya Lindfors, Inari Niemi, Raisa Omaheimo, Anna Paavilainen, Kirsikka Saari, Saara Särmä, Miia Tervo, Elli Toivoniemi, Jenni Toivoniemi. Producer Elli Toivoniemi said 70% of the €1.2M budget is in place. Domestic fall 2019. 
  • Aurora by newcomer Miia Tervo, produced by Dionysos Film. Aurora, a party animal in a small town in Finnish Lapland, meets Darian, an Iranian asylum seeker desperately trying to get married to obtain Finnish citizenship. Aurora initially turns him down, but the two gradually fall in love. Finnish release: January 2019. 
  • Siblings by established directed Saara Cantell (Devil’s Bride), produced by Making Movies. The hybrid film follows twins in their 30s who find out they have a stepsister living in Reykjavik. The filmmaker follows the fictitious characters in real-time, over a seven-year period, shot with a small crew of only four people. Expected delivery: 2022. 
  • Divine Consultants, animated film, web and TV series by Juha Fiilin, produced by Fiilin Good Films. The sci-fi adventure for teens and young adults tells of Joy, a young girl, bullied at school, whose best friend goes missing. She enters a dystopian afterlife to find her.   
  • Maria’s Paradise by multi-awarded Zaida Bergroth (The Good Son), produced by Komeeta, Stellar Film, Kaiho Republic. The film based on true events, is set in Finland’s 1920. It’s the story of Maria Åkerblom, the charismatic leader of a religious cult and her power over her devout followers, including teenager Salome. “The film about a dangerous leader who tests extreme loyalty is very relevant in today’s world,” said Bergroth. Scheduled release: 2019.

Docs in progress: 

  • Magic Lives of V by Tonislav Hristov (The Good Postman), produced by Making Movies. A young woman tries to face the demons of her own past through live action role-playing, with the help of her mentally disabled brother. The project is co-produced by Denmark’s Barfoed Films and Bulgaria’s Soul Food. Scheduled release: February 2019. 
  • Carnival Pilgrims directed and produced by Mika Mattila (Chimeras). Filmed over a four-year period, the film explores the essence and rituals of tourism, through crowds’ overviews and analytical reflections from researchers. Delivery: spring 2019. 
  • Club Colombia by Jenni Kivistö and Jussi Rastas, produced by Filmimaa. The directors follow an ex-FARC member who fights for a better society as Colombia moves towards the 2018 presidential elections and the signing of a peace accord. But in a torn-apart society, everyone from the elite to farmers, have an opinion about law and morality.The film is co-produced by Denmark’s Hansen & Pedersen, Norway’s Medicoperatørene and France’s Les Films d’un Jour. Premiere late 2018. 
  • Who Are You? By Iiris Härmä (Leaving Africa) produced by Guerilla Film. An exploration of A.I., technological revolution and their impact on our lives and values. 
  • School of Hope by Mohamed El Aboudi, produced by Illume. The last nomadic tribes of Dahra in Morocco strive against government indifference and climate change. To protect their community and build a better future for their kids, they have built a small school called School of Hope. The film is co-produced by Morocco’s Laprod and France’s Bellota Films. 
  • Aalto by multi-awarded Virpi Suutari (Garden Lovers), produced by Euphoria Film. The biopic follows the iconic couple Alvar and Aino Aalto, masters of modern architecture and design, on a personal and professional level, thanks to a unique access to personal archive materials. Delivery 2020. 

Photo left to right:
Back row Steve Bestwick (Yellow Affair), Agneta Perman (SVT), Mark Adams (Edinburgh International FF), jury members, 
Holding the diploma Best Project Award for Tuffi Films in the middle: Elli Toivoniemi (producer/writer/director), Jenni Toivoniemi (writer/director), Miia Tervo, in the front Anna Paavilainen, Aino Suni, Inari Niemi.