Finnish Film Foundation’s head of short and documentary film promotion, Marja Pallassola, has been traveling through North America to promote a number of Finnish films on the documentary circuit. She spoke with realscreen prior to Hot Docs about the roster and expectations for the fest.
One of the films on her slate, Portrait of a Man from director Visa Koiso-Kanttila, most recently announced a world sales deal with Germany’s Deckert Distribution, whose most recent international success was the Oscar-nominated short documentary Rabbit a la Berlin. Portrait of a Man focuses on one man’s quest to find out why his father committed suicide to ensure he doesn’t go down that same path, and is the final film in a trilogy about manhood.
Steam of Life will receive its first screening abroad at Hot Docs after a very successful few weeks in theaters in Finland. ‘It’s very difficult for documentary films in Finland to get audiences in cinemas,’ says Pallassola, but in this case, the film has sold over 17,000 tickets in five weeks in six theaters. The film about naked Finnish men sharing stories in saunas screened at Visions du Réel in Switzerland a few weeks ago but the filmmakers couldn’t attend because of the Icelandic volcano eruption. Hot Docs marks the first possibility for directors Joonas Berghall and Mika Hotakainen to see the film with a foreign audience.
Steam of Life is distributed by Film Transit’s Jan Rofenkamp, recipient of this year’s Hot Docs Mogul Awards. The film is in ‘very good hands,’ says Pallassola.
Pirjo Honkasalo’s Ito – A Diary of an Urban Priest, about a young Buddhist priest in Tokyo, and Mika Ronkainen’s much buzzed about Freetime Machos, about the third worst rugby team in the world, also screen at Hot Docs.
After Hot Docs ends on May 9, the four Finnish films will continue on the festival circuit. Freetime Machos will screen in both Australia and in Edinburgh in June. Steam of Life has received several invitations to different festivals. ‘It’s a good sign of a festival if it brings more invitations when you go home,’ says Pallassola. ‘That’s what happens after Hot Docs, very often.’