At the cinema Cinema Features

HIFF Gathers the Largest Film Festival Audience Since the Pandemic

The 36th Helsinki International Film Festival – Love & Anarchy finished on September 24th on a high note with the closing gala screening of Celine Song‘s PAST LIVES. Finland’s biggest film festival had over 51 000 visitors, which is its post-COVID record. The 37th Helsinki International Film Festival will be organised on September 19th – 29th 2024.

Helsinki International Film Festival finished with a bang with the sold out Closing Gala screening of PAST LIVES. The festival screenings and events gathered in more than 51 000 visitors in total, which is the largest audience for any Finnish film festival since the pandemic. The biggest hit of the festival was the U.S. indie maverick Kelly Reichardt‘s newest film SHOWING UP. Other big hits included British comedy SCRAPPER, Estonian kung fu comedy THE INVISIBLE FIGHT, Bollywood meets martial arts mash-up POLITE SOCIETY and transgressive thriller FEMME. The international gala films THE ZONE OF INTEREST, POOR THINGS, MONSTER and PAST LIVES were all sold out.

Among the most sought-after screenings were THE LAST BUS with the legendary British actor Timothy Spall in attendance, the two Finnish gala films Teemu Nikki‘s DEATH IS A PROBLEM OF THE LIVING and Katja Gauriloff‘s JE’VIDA, the French gourmet film THE TASTE OF THINGS, Takeshi Kitano‘s samurai epic KUBI and Pedro Almodóvar short films.

HIFF had the honour of hosting a slate of filmmaker guests including Catherine Corsini (HOMECOMING), Gunnar Vikene (WAR SAILOR), Anna Neye and Frederikke Aspöck (EMPIRE), Anna Hints (SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD), Lea Glob (APOLONIA, APOLONIA), Rainer Sarnet (THE INVISIBLE FIGHT) and Jonas Rothlaender (THE POWER OF LOVE).

The R&A Shorts National Competition’s main award winner was Elisabeth Marjanovic Cronvall‘s Lizard Brain. Other award winners were Karoliina Gröndahl‘s Every Tom, Dick and Urpo (Uusi aalto Award), Iiti Yli-Harja‘s Blush – An Extraordinary Voyage (Moving People and Images Award), Arman Zafari‘s Prelude (Best Student Film) and Tuukka Kovasiipi‘s Jouko (honourable mention). The Audience Award went to Fabian Munsterhjelm‘s Thank You in Your Language.

The HIFF industry sidebar Finnish Film Affair brought more than 500 film industry professionals to Helsinki. Winning projects pitched at the event were Miia Tervo‘s The Missile (Best Fiction), the Norwegian Lovable (Best Nordic Project) and Showtime in Helsinki (Best Documentary).

This year’s audience vote organised by the National Audiovisual Institute and the HIFF was won by 20,000 SPECIES OF BEES, which will be screened as Kino Regina’s film of the month in November.

The 37th Helsinki International Film Festival – Love & Anarchy will be organised on September 19th to 29th 2024. Before that, a selection of the year’s best movies can be seen at the R&A Spring Break festival.

At the cinema Cinema Features

HIFF presents the best films of the year including a Cannes stirrer and the new Almodóvar

The Helsinki International Film Festival – Love & Anarchy has announced its programme. The Cannes Grand Prix-winning concentration camp drama THE ZONE OF INTEREST is presented as the Masters Gala film. The freshest film smorgasbord in the country also has Pedro Almodóvar’s new shorts as well as heaps of winners and audience favourites from the world’s major film festivals. Filmmaker guests of the festival include the director Catherine Corsini and the documentarist Lea Glob. The 36th edition of HIFF takes place on September 14–24, 2023.

HIFF adds another gala to its roster. THE ZONE OF INTEREST that caused quite a stir and won the Grand Prix at Cannes is screened at the new Masters Gala. As previously announced, the festival’s other gala films are the Opening Film MONSTER (dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda), the Love & Anarchy Gala film POOR THINGS (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos), the Human Rights Gala film JE’VIDA (dir. Katja Gauriloff), the Finnish Gala film DEATH IS A PROBLEM FOR THE LIVING (dir. Teemu Nikki), and the Closing Film PAST LIVES (dir. Celine Song).

The Zone of Interest by the British director Jonathan Glazer (e.g. Under the Skin, Season FF 2015) provides a scathing portrayal of everyday evil and fascism via the family life of Rudolf Höss, the commander of the Auschwitz concentration camp. The German star Sandra Hüller (Toni Erdmann, 2016) gives a striking performance as the family matriarch. Based on a novel by Martin Amis who passed away in May, The Zone of Interest is brought to cinemas by SF Studios early 2024.

The R&A Shorts programme is complemented by two newest short-form works by Pedro Almodóvar. Seen in Cannes this year, STRANGE WAY OF LIFE featuring Hollywood stars Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal as gunslingers and former lovers is a queer western that bears the unmistakable touch of its director. It is screened in tandem with the intense lockdown short THE HUMAN VOICE (2021) starring Tilda Swinton.

Cinematic manna rains from film heaven with 141 feature films. The most coveted new outings include SHOWING UP by the U.S. indie maven Kelly Reichardt, the Senegalese-French director Ramata-Toulaye Sy’s BANEL & ADAMA which was the only debut effort in this year’s Cannes competition and the Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s ABOUT DRY GRASSES that earned Merve Dizdar the Best Actress Award at Cannes. Among the international festival hits are the Bollywood-meets-martial-arts genre-blending POLITE SOCIETY, the Orthodox monk kung-fu slugfest THE INVISIBLE FIGHT helmed by the HIFF’s favourite Estonian director Rainer Sarnet, and the rockumentary KISS THE FUTURE about the attempts of U2 to raise worldwide awareness of the horrors of wartime Sarajevo.

The entire HIFF programme can now be found on the festival’s website. Sales of festival passes have also begun. Single ticket sales will start a week from now on Thursday, September 7.

Top guests come from around Europe

HIFF welcomes among its main guests the French director Catherine Corsini, whose latest film HOMECOMING made waves in the Cannes competition. The Danish documentarist Lea Glob brings to Helsinki her work APOLONIA, APOLONIA for which she followed the contemporary artist Apolonia Sokol’s life for 13 years. Filmmakers behind several contenders for the Nordic Council Film Prize are also visiting. For more information about the filmmakers arriving in Helsinki, please consult the HIFF guest press release.

Kaurismäki in English and intimate choreography

The HIFF programme features an exceptionally wide array of best new Finnish films. The cream of the crop is naturally Aki Kaurismäki’s FALLEN LEAVES that was recently voted the Best Film of the Year by the International Federation of Film Critics. The festival provides the non-Finnish-speaking audience with a possibility to see this gentle tragicomedy with English subtitles.

Other Finnish highlights of the programme are Selma Vilhunen’s FOUR LITTLE ADULTS, Tia Kouvo’s FAMILY TIME, Kaisa El Ramly’s debut feature film GETAWAYS & DREAMS, and the world premiere of the sensual German-Finnish co-production POWER OF LOVE starring Saara Kotkaniemi and Nicola Perot. To coincide with the film’s screening, the festival organizes a panel discussion about the work of intimacy coordinators at the HIFF festival centre in Bio Rex Lasipalatsi. This year’s festival also features Saturday morning coffee sessions with filmmakers.

The Finnish Film Affair brings a James Bond casting director to Finland

The 12th edition of the Finnish Film Affair (FFA), a HIFF event aimed at industry professionals, brings the international film industry experts to Helsinki on September 20–22. 31 Nordic films and TV shows in production or in development are pitched at the event. New projects include works by Miia TervoJenni ToivoniemiTonislav Hristov and last year’s R&A Shorts National Competition winner Mari Mantela, as well as the upcoming children’s film Itty Bitty Princess.

This year, FFA’s popular Nordic Flair training programme focuses on actors. The 20 Nordic actors selected for the programme get to participate in self-tape and CV training under the direction of international top professionals. The CV’s of the casting directors who arrive in Finland include i.a. the James Bond film Skyfall and the TV hit show Exit.

The three-day Finnish Film Affair attracts guests from the Venice and Tribeca Film Festivals, from the Sheffield DocFest, and from the Variety and Screen trade magazines.

Cinema Features

The 15 Greatest Movie Car Chases

From James Bond to Fast and Furious, there are many iconic car chases that have made our hearts race throughout the years. But which one claims first place on the podium of popularity? Curious to find out, delved into the numbers to discover which on-screen car chase is our favourite.

By evaluating a variety of factors such as the number of YouTube views, likes and dislikes, and IMDb ratings, they created a fan index score that determined which are the most memorable car chase scenes committed to film.

The key findings include:

  • The Dark Knight Rises (2012) is our favourite car chase, scoring 9.06 out of a possible 10
  • Another car chase from the Batman franchise claims second place, The Dark Knight (2008)
  • Drive (2011) makes the top three, followed by Baby Driver (2017) in fourth place
  • Captain AmericaMad Max and Bullitt are amongst the films with our favourite car chase scenes
  • Jack Reacher (2012) rounds out the list coming in at 15h place with a score of 6.23 out of a possible 10


 MovieYouTube video viewsIMDb film rating YouTube like/dislike Ratio FINAL SCORE (out of 10)
1Batman: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)8.499.259.439.06
2Batman: The Dark Knight (2008)6.239.818.688.24
3Drive (2011)6.427.929.627.99
4Baby Driver (2017)9.816.237.747.93
5Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)8.876.987.927.92
6Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)9.068.874.917.61
7The Blues Brothers (1980)5.668.38.37.42
8Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)9.629.621.897.04
9The Raid 2 (2014)6.048.685.286.67
10Parabellum (2019) 4.915.099.816.60
11The Bourne Identity (2002)
12Smokey and the Bandit (1977)7.552.839.066.48
13Bullitt (1968)6.985.097.176.41
14Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
15Jack Reacher (2012)6.62.839.256.23

Batman’s thrilling first appearance in The Dark Knight Rises (2012) is our favorite car chase, scoring9.06 out of a possible 10. Iconic for the triumphant return of Batman (Christian Bale) from the darkness, the scene raises our pulse with the chase that involves the police, Batman, and of course the villain Bane (played by Tom Hardy). Views on YouTube have amassed 13 million to date and resulted in a score of 9.43 out of a possible 10 on the platform’s like to dislike ratio.

Another car chase from the Batman franchise races into second place, this time involving the superhero and the legendary Heath Ledger’s Joker behind the wheels in The Dark Knight (2008). The scene, which starts with Batman’s Tumbler seamlessly transforming into the Batcycle before riding off after The Joker, scored an overall rating of 8.24 out of a possible 10.

The opening scene of Drive (2011) makes the top three, rating 7.99 out of a possible 10. The adrenaline in this particular car chase is caused not by the typical loud explosions and tyre screeching, but by the soothing and quiet way that the Mystery Driver (Ryan Gosling) flees from the cops on a Chevrolet Impala. Comments on the YouTube video include “Every police chase should be like this” and “most realistic getaway driver scenario”, contributing to the like to dislike ratio score of 9.62 out of a possible 10, the second highest after Parabellum (2019).

The curtain raiser scene on Baby Driver (2017) comes in fourth with 7.93 out of a possible 10. The young getaway driver, played by Ansel Elgort, sings along to “Bellbottoms” by Jon Spencer whilst simultaneously being chased by numerous cop cars. This slick moment of cinematic history has earned over 67 million views on YouTube, the most of all scenes analyzed in the study.

>> YouTube videos of all the car chase scenes included in this study, as well as the total 52 scenes analysed can be found here.

Cinema Features

HIFF – Love & Anarchy brings Spike Lee to Finland

The 31st Helsinki International Film Festival – Love & Anarchy is organised from September 20th to 30th, 2018. Spike Lee, a true trailblazer of American and more specifically African-American cinema, is the festival’s honorary guest. Other main guests include legendary director of German cinema Margarethe von Trotta, Australian cult director Stephan Elliott and German-French-Iranian filmmaker Emily Atef. The collaboration between HIFF and Yle will continue this year in the form of French cinema.

Love & Anarchy is honoured to bring highly accomplished filmmakers to Helsinki this year. HIFF’s honorary guest is the Academy Award winning American director Spike Lee, who will be holding a masterclass at the festival. HIFF will screen Lee’s hugely popular new film BLACKKKLANSMAN in addition to DO THE RIGHT THING (1989), the biggest hit of the second edition of the festival. Spike Lee’s visit is organised in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in Finland and BlacKkKlansman actor Jasper Pääkkönen.

The Grand Old Lady of German cinema Margarethe von Trotta will be attending the festival. Besides Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders, she is one of the most important directors of New German Cinema. Von Trotta will bring to Helsinki her new documentary SEARCHING FOR INGMAR BERGMAN, in which a number of filmmakers discuss the Swedish maestro’s influence on their own work. Von Trotta’s visit is organised in collaboration with the Hanaholmen cultural centre.

Stephan Elliott, whose colourful comedy THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT was one of the hits of HIFF 1994, will be joining us all the way from Australia. The director, whose work has brought LGBTQ+ themes into mainstream cinema, will be introducing his new film SWINGING SAFARI. In addition, Priscilla will be shown as a special drag screening as part of the new Love & Anarchy Trailblazers section.

Director Emily Atef brings her film 3 DAYS IN QUIBERON from Berlin to Helsinki. The film, which won most German Film Awards at the Lola-Gala in April, is a recreation of the legendary film actress Romy Schneider‘s iconic interview.

At the end of the festival, the R&A Shorts sidebar will welcome the performance art group LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner, which includes Hollywood star Shia LaBeouf. The festival presents the trio’s new film #TAKEMEANYWHERE. The visit is organised in collaboration with the Finnish Institute in London.

At the cinema Cinema Features Interviews

Interview with actor Faran Tahir

Although a veteran actor who has played many roles in theater, TV series and movies such as Star Trek and Iron Man, this year seems to be so far the year of Faran Tahir. Not only appearing currently in the blockbuster “Elysium”, but soon in October we will see him sharing the screen with Schwarzenegger and Stallone while trying to escape from jail in “Escape Plan”. FREE! Magazine brings you an exclusive interview with Faran all the way from Hollywood where he tells us very juicy facts about his career, projects and movie partners.

Currently the spectators can see you in the cinema theaters around the world in the film Elysium. What can they expect about the movie and about your particular role as the president of Elysium?

I think the movie has all the thrills and imagination that a great science fiction movie should deliver but it also has some very current and serious themes under all of that. Themes like elitism, classism, immigration, medical care, integration. I am hoping that the audiences will enjoy the action but hopefully it will also start a dialogue in their head and with others about all these issues. My character is trying to walk a very nuanced line, as politicians do, to resolve a complex and sensitive crisis.

Faran Tahir

How was working with director Neill Blomkamp? It must have been also challenging for him to coordinate a production way much bigger than his previous hit District 9…

Neill is a brilliant director. Although, it was a much bigger production but he was more than capable of handling it.

In Elysium, some of the topics treated are quite hot in our current real world: Immigration, separation of social classes… Do people in Hollywood get aware of these issues?

Yes, I think people in all walks of life are aware of these issues. This movie is proof that these issues are in the forefront of every ones minds.

If I am not mistaken, your family was already into the movie industry in India and Pakistan. So were you pretty much ‘drinking’ from their influence to become an actor since childhood? In what way your family shaped your wishes for the future to act?

My family has been in the arts and entertainment actively for three generations. When you have been this immersed in a field your approach is realistic. You have seen the creativity, heartaches, success and failures. You need to prepare yourself for all of that. The dialogues with my family were about all of that. How best to prepare for all eventualities and not lose you core and center in the process..

You have a broad experience in theater, TV series and in cinema movies. So what are the main differences from your point of view when you have worked in these 3 areas as actor?

Although the emotional connection to character and script remain the same, the technique needs to be adjusted. There are some stories that are best told in front of a live audience while others need the enormity of the silver screen and some might need the luxury of unfolding over weeks, months, years that television provides. One has to respect the medium that one is working in and the kind of story one is telling.

Although you have done many different roles, certainly it seems that you are often casted as the “villain” kind of guy in the movies. Is it something that you enjoy, or is there a point where you say to your agent “Oh nooo, not another role as the “bad guy”!!!?

Actually, in the past four years I have made about 20 appearances on film and TV and only 5 were ‘villain’ characters. Bad guys do stick in peoples minds more. They are fun to play if you play them honestly. If you can make them human. I do make sure that if I playing too much of the same that I find variety. For instance, this year I have three movies releasing. I play the president in ELYSIUM, a prisoner in ESCAPE PLAN and a father who lost a son in a shopping mall explosion in TORN.

Faran Tahir

Having already had a long experience in Hollywood, do you remember what was your favorite actor to work with? Any interesting anecdotes to share?

I have thoroughly enjoyed working with everyone. I have been blessed to have had the good fortune of working with so many talented people. Jeff Bridges and I in IRON MAN had a very funny night shooting. We had a particularly long day. We had been working for 16 hrs straight. We were shooting a scene at 2 am and we just could not walk and talk at the same time. At one point, we just got the giggles like little kids.

Soon in October you will appear again in another hot title, Escape Plan, partnering with no less than Stallone and Schwarzenegger! Were you a fan of their action movies? I suppose you cannot ask for better company when is about throwing punches on the big screen…

What boy is not a fan of action movies? Stallone and Schwarzenegger are icons of that genre. It was great working with them and I think the movie has turned out to be amazing.

What are your hobbies and passions in your free time when you are not acting?

Running, cycling, good food, traveling, and day dreaming.

For the rest of the mortals on earth whose only connection to Hollywood is to go to the closest cinema theater… please tell us, what is in your opinion the best and the worst of being an actor in these super productions that will be seen by million of people around the globe?

The best and the worst is the same. You put a part of you in a character and share it with world. it is the best when people appreciate it and the worst when they don’t.

Anything you want to add for our readers?

Don’t let go of your dreams.

1 At the cinema Cinema Features

Helsinki Film Festival – A festival for all tastes.

If you have seen endless queues of people waiting patiently outside Lasipalatsi in the centre of Helsinki, do not be surprised. The annual Helsinki Film Festival (Rakkautta & Anarkiaa) is here one more year, and although there are not huge big international stars visiting this remote part of the globe (Richard Gere, George Clooney and alike people seem to prefer these days to visit San Sebastian´s festival in the north of Spain), the inhabitants of Helsinki love their festival.

Rakkautta ja Anarkiaa

An opportunity to enjoy good cinema for 10 days, with an eclectic selection that varies from mainstream Hollywood movies, winks to neighboring countries like Estonia, a focus on some of the best features coming from southern European countries like Spain or France, the passion for Asia and anime or the rescue of previous classics features in other editions of the festival to be re-visited at Orion theatre.

As stated before, this is not a mega glamorous festival, but maybe that is its biggest charm. Even for being held in the capital of Finland, it still has a sense of family. The staff that organize the festival are very friendly and eager to help you, the cinema theatres are pretty geographically close ones from the others around the city centre, so it is very easy to move around, the prices are affordable and they even give away free condoms in the information point located in Lasipalatsi (after all the name of the festival is Love & Anarchy…), so what else can you ask?

Well, added to all that, the list of guests is pretty interesting with some highlights like Icelandic director Hafsteinn Gunnar Siguroson, the Serbian actor Goran Jevtic or the French director Jacques Audiard.

FREE Magazine´s 5 tips to enjoy during the festival:

Killer Joe

Killer Joe (Director William Friedkin)

Many critics can say that Juno Temple is the shining star of this movie, but I disagree, could not fall less than captivated by the strong performance given by Matthew McConaughey in what is undoubtedly one of the best roles of his career. As the professional killer Joe, Matthew transforms into that kind of likeable villain that you are not sure if you should hate or imitate. His character exudes charm and confidence, the same qualities that the family living in a caravan in Texas with whom he interacts lacks of. A great movie with amazing dialogues and a couple of great twists.

Unit 7

Unit 7 (Director Alberto Rodriguez)

If Alberto Rodriguez already gladly surprised me some years ago with his previous movie 7 Virgins, here he does no less than reaffirming that he is one of the best Spanish directors nowadays. He totally masters in recreating the atmosphere of the poor neighborhoods of Sevilla at the beginning of the 90s. A story based on true fact by policemen that are not a perfect example of morals and villains who are sucked into the spiral of drugs. An exercise that proves once more than the border that separates the good and the bad people is thin. Very solid performances by main characters Antonio de la Torre and Mario Casas (who shows that apart from being a target for teenage Spanish girls who fall in love with his looks, he is also a good actor).

In my opinion, one of the strongest Spanish movies not just of the year, but probably of the last decade, able to mix drama with the unavoidable sarcastic sense of humor that runs all over the cities of Andalucía.

Good Vibrations

Good Vibrations (Directors Lisa Barros D`Sa, Glenn Leyburn).

Belfast in the 1970s was not exactly the place where hippies and happy love would flourish under every corner, but Terri Hooley was able to open a record store in the heart of the most dangerous area in the whole Ireland and give a push to the native punk scene in an allegation of love for music and peace. Good Vibrations is a simple but wonderful movie that shows how determination can overcome problems, although there is always a personal price to pay when you put all your efforts in what you love the most. Richard Dormer gives a great performance as Hooley himself while the movie counts with great secondary actors like my all time favorite Dylan Moran (many will recognize him from the series Black Books) or Liam Cunningham (Davos in Game of Thrones).

Whore´s Glory

Whore ‘s Glory (Director Michael Glawogger)

For nearly 2 hours, director Glawogger transports us all over prostitution scene in three locations around the world, in Bangkok, Thailand, Faridpur, Bangladesh and Reynosa, Mexico.

Prostitutes, clients and pimps talk honestly in front of the camera about the business of prostitution. Without wanting to position himself, Glawogger lets the camera do the talk and leaves the spectator extracting their own conclusions, but here and there, there are a lot of brushes of sad stories, with prostitutes that seem defeated by the weight of life and clients that regard them as a piece of meat to bring happiness for a couple of hours to their monotonous existences and marriages.

I personally found heartbreaking when very young prostitutes, clearly underage, are able to give powerful monologues of how life is hard and full of pain but they try to light their worries with a bit of laughter here and there. Touching movie, where clients and sex professionals seem to be linked by a chain of deep sadness that even an orgasm achieved after some money changing hands cannot make disappear.

Rust and Bone

Rust and Bone (Director Jacques Audiard)

French director Jacques Audiard, who will be also present in Helsinki as special guest, features a strong and emotive story of love between an orca trainer by always delightful actress Marion Cotillard and a lowlife boxer, Mathias Schoenaerts, which takes the pulse of current French cinema in a product with a lot of resemblances with the typical Hollywood story of characters haunted by bad luck trying to find a glimpse of hope through love. The movie will be the closing one for the current Helsinki Festival, putting the cherry on top of the cake to 10 days of great emotions in the big screen. A must see!

Cinema DVD Features

Movie review: The Guard

Through all the cinema history we have seen all kind of unconventional policemen, many of them with Irish roots doing their job in America (remember as an example the unforgettable Sean Connery in The Untouchables). But not so many of these Irish characters are actually portrayed while working in their native Ireland.

The Guard

In that beautiful country is where director John Michael McDonagh sets up the action with a superb Brendan Gleeson as main character and soul of the movie. Don Cheadle teams up with him as the uptight FBI agent whose mission is to arrest a gang of dangerous Irish drug dealers, but it is undoubtedly Gleeson who gives some of the best moments in the film, with some exhilarating scenes like the dialogues with the IRA member when he goes to pick back the guns or one of the criminals who is waiting for him at his home to finish him.

More than the average easy jokes with a tandem of white-black policemen, here what you find is a witty and subtle sense of humor, a very Irish way of making fun of themselves while at the same time standing proud of their country, language and traditions. Maybe it is not the mainstream entertainment that many spectators are looking for, and I would also criticize that a powerful actor like Mark Strong is pretty much wasted in his secondary role when it would have been delicious to see him with a few more minutes on screen, but all in all, The Guard is an intelligent movie and with quite funny moments when you scratch on the surface.

Rating 4 out of 5.

The Guard – Trailer

Cinema DVD Features

Movie Review – Norwegian Wood

I had read some years ago the original book by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami Tokio Blues (Norwegian Wood), and being a fan of Japanese movies, I was curious to see the adaption to cinema, carried away by director Anh Hung Tran.

But I must say that same than when I read Murakami´s books, that I find neither boring nor a masterpiece, I had the same feeling after watching the movie. Actually I personally reccommend other Japanese author, whose surname is also the same, Ryu Murakami, as I have enjoyed his style much more. Murakami is poetic and nice to read, but sometimes I find him a bit tedious. Just like this movie.

Norwegian Wood

Of course it is not easy to adapt a book to the big screen, in very rare occassions the story ends in a success. Here with Norwegian Wood there have been some positive and negative sides. Photography is splendid, lyric, beautiful… The main character of Watanabe, portrayed by actor Kenichi Matsuyama, is also to my understanding very well achieved. At least he is able to represent all what is about to be a lost young Japanese student whose feelings are a mess, the dilemma between love and lust, between been faithful and acting crazy, between been social or lonely… All is there masterfully portrayed.

However, I think the film fails in portraying the female characters that sorround Watanabe. At some point, we miss the background story about their sadness, depressions and problems. They appear on scene like if magically impulsed to fullfill their loneliness by using Watanabe as a sexual partner. Too much poetic slow photography and too little development of the secondary characters. Maybe only Nagasawa, the cynic partner of Watanabe and unscrupulous womanizer, is the one that looks plausible to his role, since being shallow is the core of his character.

Not a bad movie all in all, but I must confess it turned to be a bit too long at the end; I do not enjoy the feeling when I start looking at the watch to see when a movie is finally going to end. A more solid screenplay strenghtening the female characters would have improved the final result dramatically.

Rating 3/5

Norwegian Wood – Trailer

Antonio's blog Blogs Cinema Features

Game of Thrones – Will George R.R. Martin finish the saga of Song of Ice & Fire?

The first season of the TV series Game of Thrones is over. Yes, I confess, I am also a fan. I was already a fan of the books before the series started, so as many others, I was expecting it with joy and fear. And the result, I must say, has been superb! Congratulations to HBO, because it was not an easy task to comprise the first book in just 10 hours (10 chapters of 1 hour), and they did an amazing job with a great script, decoration and cast.

Of course, there will be always fans that won´t be totally happy with everything. Some complained that the werewolves were not much shown, others that there were important scenes cut, etc. I think that all in all, you cannot ask for much more in a TV adaptation of such a twisted saga of books. The cast was mostly nailed (maybe I am not totally satisfied with Catelyn Stark, but well…) and the extra scenes added that did not appear in the book, such as the fight between Jamie and Edward Stark, did really give some extra value there. Besides, the intro is one of the best I have ever seen in cinematographic history, and the soundtrack really gets you hooked, I already have the intro song as ringtone in my mobile phone ;)


Now the sad part is that we will have to wait for another year for the second season, that it is reported to being shot in Ireland this summer. The task becomes bigger and bigger, the plot in the books gets more diversified, with more characters added, more magic, more important situations that are keyword to understand for what is coming next… Will HBO be able to pull the rabbit out of the hat again? It is a difficult question, taking into account that more special effects will be needed. And even more important, how would it develop in the series, as in the 4th and 5th book, they narrate the story of only half of the characters? Will the fans have to wait one year for example if this reaches season 4 to see later what Tyrion is up to?

Questions with no answers yet, for the moment we will have to pray that at least the series continue offering the same level of quality. And if somebody can do it, those are the guys of HBO, who by the way also deployed a super official site for the series, sometimes even offering the chapters to see fully for free there.
I had the chance to interview the author of the books, George R.R. Martin, a couple of summers ago, during his visit to Tallinn. And I have to say I have a bittersweet memory of the encounter. First, he held a meeting with the fans, and was all sympathy and jokes. Somebody asked about the possibility of he not finishing the saga, and he just joked that he was keeping at a safe distance of the buses. But when I repeated politely the question in the interview, he was quite cold about it. And let´s be honest, it is the question that everybody is wondering about. We wish George a long happy life, but he is not a child anymore, and the last book had continuous delays. My interview took place in summer 2009, and he said that the new 5th book, A Dance with Dragons, would be released that September. Well, it has been released just some weeks ago, 2 years after he announced that. And magically, it happens to be released at the same time that the TV series first season is over.

Was the book ready for 1 or 2 years, and they preferred to have the marketing strategy of making the fans wait, to take more advantage for the sales of the heat of the TV series? It looks like, which was not very polite and considered for the fans that had been years waiting for an update in the saga.

George R.R. Martin in Tallinn

Martin also dedicated himself in the middle of the interview to sign books that were on the table, which I do not consider a very polite gesture towards the interviewer. He has been journalist himself, so should have a better notion about these things. And the cherry on top of the cream came when at the end of the interview, his wife came very angrily to tell me she had not liked the question about his future and the possibility that he would not finish the saga, and I should erase it from the interview. Martin was a few meters away, and he did not open his mouth to try to smooth the situation.

Was it not polite to ask him? Well, it is what all the fans are wondering about, and I only asked if he had any other author in mind that he would like to continue his saga if for any reason he could not finish it (does it ring a bell the unfortunate death of Robert Jordan and his amazing Wheel of Time saga?). It shocked me that they showed their best friendly face to the fans who asked the same things, and then with me, a journalist from a small media (who is basically a fan), they were so annoyed and not totally polite. Reality is the way it is, if it takes 3-4 years for him to release a new book, and there are still at least 2 to be written, what would happen when the TV series, that it is broadcasted 1 season per book, reaches the stage where the last book was published?

Good news could be that while the release of the fifth book was procrastinated, maybe Martin was already advancing the work for the 6th book. But probably nobody knows except of himself and his publicists.

All in all, I think that a fantasy and science fiction writer like him owes respect and seriousness in his work to the fans, who are the ones that made him famous and gave him money. So maybe instead of embarking in long tours around the world to have a full stomach eating well and get bathed by the adoration of masses, and assisting HBO with the series, he should do what he can do best as a one of the greatest fiction writers nowadays: to sit and write and end the saga. Millions of fans are craving for it, and they have been waiting already too long.

Game of Thrones – Trailer

Antonio's blog Blogs Cinema Features

Riot On – A must see Finnish documentary!!!

Since long time ago I wanted to post an article about one of my favorite Finnish productions ever made, the documentary Riot On! (2004).

I would reccommend Riot On! for many reasons. It is not only because it is a Finnish documentary and easy to follow because most of the lenght is spoken in English language, but because it is probably one of the funniest and best edited that I have ever seen in my life.

Riot On!

Besides, it talks about IT and mobile industry in Finland, where I work. Being honest, probably 95% of the foreign population in Finland came here for studies or due to a partner being Finnish, and many of those 95% end up working, even if it was not their pure background as it is my case, in IT industry, because among other reasons, there are not many other chances for foreigners in Finland, as most of the expatriated who have lived here for a few years know very well.

But although it will make the experience more enjoyable if you have lived in Finland for a few years and you have worked or currently work in an IT company, it is a documentary that can be seen by everybody, and it is almost impossible that will not provoke you a few laughs.

Mixing reality with fiction, the story of this Finnish company that went to the top and burnt the money it is a tragicomical example of people who were at the right place, but not at the right time. The founders of Riot On! were pioneers at many levels, and although their way of handling business was crazy, sometimes you can see that the thin line between being a genius or being a loser us… very thin!

The rythm is amazing, you do not feel bored during the interviews, due to the funny anecdotes and the catchy characters, especially the CEO Jann Wellmann who exhales real charisma.

As I said, you cannot take seriously 100% of what it is narrated there, because the same people behind Riot On! are the ones directing the documentary. Take it more like an exercise where little doses of fiction ornate the reality, because Riot On! really existed, and the core of the story really happened (unfortunately, we have not been able to locate any copy of the spicy DVD that supposedly was recorded at some crazy mixed sauna parties as it is stated there…).

Riot On!

Riot On!, although taken to the extreme, gives a good example of how the Finnish society is. People who look very serious at the office space can be passing out on the floor a few hours later after a crazy sauna party, and people who seem the most serious in the universe can turn doing some amazing behaviors… As I said, working myself in IT for a few years, I know that once from the inside, you see that not everybody is so hard worker and responsible as it seems for the outer world. That your boss is dissappeared for a whole day with no explanation is nothing uncommon in Finnish offices, for just putting a small example, and that happens when people are not calling sick leave days to fight the hangover after a previous night with too much booze in the mix…

On the other hand, Finns have a special talent to connect with the needs of the people in the digital era. If nowadays is true that Nokia is not going through their best time, take a look at Angry Birds, the most popular mobile phone game created by a company called Rovio in… yeah, you guessed right, Finland!

If you like good and funny documentarios, Riot On! is for you. And if you have some connection with Finland and its strong IT industry, this is definitely something you cannot miss!

Riot On! – Trailer

Cinema Features

Jussi Awards winners 2011

The best local films of the year 2010 were awarded in Jussi Gala in the 6th of February. The awards were given by Filmiaura, the association of Finnish film professionals. Jalmari Helander´s Rare Exports collected a total of six awards for its ambitious technical solutions (Best Costume Design, Best Set Design, Best Editing, Best Sound Design, Best Music, Best Cinematography). Lapland Odyssey collected four awards (Best Film, Best Direction, Best Script, Public Favorite). The legendary director Matti Kassila, 87, was awarded with Concrete Jussi for his life-time work in the service of the Finnish cinema.

Rare Exports

The winners in categorical order:

Best film:
Lapland Odyssey – producer Aleksi Bardy

Best direction:
Lapland Odyssey – Dome Karukoski

Best actor in a leading role:
Bad Family – Ville Virtanen

Best actress in a leading role:
Princess – Katja Küttner

Best actor in a supporting role:
Heartbeats – Sampo Sarkola

Best actress in a supporting role:
Run Sister Run – Sara Melleri

Best Script:
Lapland Odyssey – Pekko Pesonen

Best cinematography:
Rare Exports – Mika Orasmaa

Best music:
Rare Exports – Juri Seppä and Miska Seppä

Best sound design:
Rare Exports – Tuomas Seppänen, Timo Anttila and Jussi Honka

Best editing:
Rare Exports – Kimmo Taavila

Best set design:
Rare Exports – Jalmari Helander

Best costume design:
Rare Exports – Saija Siekkinen

Best documentary film:
Steam of Life – Joonas Berghäll and Mika Hotakainen

Public Favorite:
Lapland Odyssey – Dome Karukoski

Jussi Awards have been given since 1944 and they are considered as the oldest European film awards. The gala was broadcast live via Finnish TV channel Nelonen.

For more information:

Cinema Features

Miesten Vuoro Review

Ask your average English-speaking layman to play a game of Word Association, and the chances are, if you say Finland, that if they don’t opt for ‘cold’, or ‘depressed’, the word ‘sauna’ will come up. I’ve always found it amusing that the Swedes and Finns both lay claim to the advent of the Sauna, and in the excellent coming-of-age novel Popular Music in Vittula, by Mikael Niemi, set on the border of the two countries, there is a wonderful argument between the elders on the virtues of a Swedish sauna versus a Finnish version, and, God forbid, a Norwegian equivalent. There is nothing comparable in any European culture I can think of that is so central as the Sauna is to the Nordic countries, and, in particular, to Finnish men.

Miesten Vuoro

Miesten Vuoro serves as a celebration of the sauna while exploring ground hitherto relatively unknown – emotional tenderness beneath that most hardened veneer of macho stoicism, the Finnish male psyche. Far from the emotionally retarded, monosyllabic stereotype that is generally accepted, the many subjects of this excellent documentary all have stories to tell, which are in turn heartbreaking, endearing, and often compelling. The directorial duo of Joonas Berghäll and Mika Hotakainen have stated in interview that, during the ten years in which they dreamed up a formula, ‘there have been loads of documentaries and discussions in the [Finnish] media about women’s emotions and lives. We thought it was time to show that there is a tender and emotional side to men also.’ (1)

The film takes the form of a series of vignettes, set in saunas all across Finland, with interludes depicting panoramic landscapes of the country to set the context. Domestic strife is a theme that comes up more than once, and many of the subjects of conversation are universal enough for an international audience to relate to. However, they also tell us a great deal about Finnish society, such as certain characters’ battles with alcoholism and solitude. Not all the scenes are everyday tales of the average Joe – one man gives a lengthy account of his paternal relationship with a fully-grown grizzly bear, and a group of off-duty Santa Claus’ are amongst those placed for comic relief. Sometimes the documentary form is betrayed by set pieces like this – a scene featuring a man taking a sauna in a converted telephone box, and another of a couple who have altered a clapped-out car to enjoy a cleansing seem unlikely, and the fact that the Santas wear full dress in the changing room is playing to the camera in a rather more staged manner than might befit a true ‘documentary’. Nevertheless, these are minor quibbles. When the film finished at the cinema I was at, the audience trailed out the theatre in a sober fashion, but I saw several with moist eyes, and quiet, warm smiles, which I imagine is exactly the reaction the film set out to achieve.


Cinema Features

A foreign shot at Finland

{mosimage}Obviously, the cinema that best portrays Finland is the Finnish cinema. But apart from directors like Kaurismäki brothers, JP Silli, Aku Louhimies or Petri Kotwica, there are winks to Finland and Finnish culture in movies made abroad. FREE! Magazine brings you a few examples! 




Confessions of a Shopaholic (USA)

Now in cinema theatres. There is a funny dialogue in "Finnish" when the main character assist to a social event.


Link to YouTube video:



Zugvögel … einmal nach Inari (Germany)

Hannes is a beer-truck driver in Dortmund. His biggest dream is to win the train Time-Table Contest in Inari (Finland). He will have a twisted trip to Finland where he will meet all kind of people and also…love






Earth Girls are easy (USA)

{mosimage}There is an hilarious moment when the aliens are watching TV and they claim that Norway is the capital of Finland… The relation between Geena Davis and Renny Harlin has probably a lot to do with this wink. And obviously, if you are a fan of Harlin´s movies, you must have notice that he always places objects or references to Finland in his movies.

Link to video in YouTube:





Los Amantes del Círculo Polar (Lovers from the Arctic Circle)(Spain)

Julio Medem is one of the best Spanish directors of the last decades, and this is probably his masterpiece. A romantic and beautiful love story that drags the two main characters into a trip to Finland. A must see!



Osobennosti natsionalnoy okhoty (Peculiarities of the National Hunting) (Russia)

Finnish actor Ville Haapasalo is a well known character in Russian cinema. This title is the first one of a comedy saga, and has some hilarious moments. Do not miss how a cow can end up inside a fight plane. The drunkards Russian do not know in the end at what side of the border they are, if the Finnish or the Russian one. 




Aaltra (Belgium)

If you like indie movies, this one is for you. Two paraplegics who hate each other into a road trip that leads them to Finland, with the wish of meeting Aki Kaurismäki.




And some other “Finnish” moments in foreign films that come to my mind is the beginning of the newest Chacal, shot in Helsinki, Charlie´s Angels using Finnish as a secret communication language, the Finnish hacker in Operation Swordfish (although he does not speak Finnish when interrogated), the crazy Nokia mobile phone in Transformers, Night on Earth and the taxi driver in Helsinki…

If you remember more, just drop us a line and maybe we can altogether create a continuation to this article!

Cinema Features

Gimme love, freedom and good movies against the coldness!

{mosimage}One more year, the Helsinki International Film Festival Rakkautta ja Anarkiaa (Love and Anarchy) it is a compulsory destination for lovers of good cinema. The offer this year is astonishingly good and wide, with more than 130 festival films available in the following venues: Bio Rex, Maxim, Kinopalatsi, Andorra, Dubrovnik and Kino Engel. 


Basically every single cinema lover will find something interesting to watch during the 10 days that the festival take place (from 18 to 28 of September). Japanese animation, the new cinema from Spain, the last tendencies of the neighboring Estonia, the most acid documentaries, other projects where cinema and music melt… everything has space here in Helsinki. The organization of HIFF is full of young and dynamic people who truly love cinema, and that gets extrapolated in an awesome offer.





Added to this, the audience will have chance also to enjoy the visit of some very special guests like the Mexican director Carlos Reygadas or the Estonian directors Ilmar Raag, Veiko Ounpuu and René Vilbre (who is on the hot spot in his native country nowadays with the releasing of Minä Olin Siin, his latest project), as well as veteran Spanish actress Silvia Munt or the irreverent Chris Waitt, creator of the show Fur TV that you can watch in Finnish MTV.  


FREE! Magazine´s 5 picks for the 21st Helsinki International Film Festival:  



{mosimage}1) A Complete History of My Sexual Failures

Well, I think that the following sentence perfectly resumes the philosophy of a person who dares to dissect all his past failed relations in front of the camera. What you can expect from Chris Waitt and his exhilarating new movie is just to have a great time: 

”I made some sexy moves on Keira Knightley on the dance floor at a film awards party last year. I lasted two minutes before I was escorted away by her bodyguards.”



{mosimage}2) Tokyo Sonata  

Japanese director Kurosawa (no, not related to Akira Kurosawa) features a delicious bitter sweet story of a middle class family in Tokyo, where every member disguises in the everyday normality their own problems, dreams and passions. A great dissection of the contemporary Japanese society, and a wonderful final Sonata played in the piano by the child Kenji in the end that surely will make you feel goose pimples.—tokyo-sonata 



{mosimage}3) Chaotic Ana. 

Julio Medem is undoubtedly one of the best Spanish directors in the last decade. The creator of masterpieces like Land (Tierra), Lucia and the Sex (Lucia y el Sexo) or the closely related to Finland The lovers from the Arctic Circle (Los Amantes del Círculo Polar) is back with a new little masterpiece where features the exploratory journey of the young and beautiful Ana.—chaotic-ana 


{mosimage}4) It s a Free World. 

Ken Loach continues being socially involved with a new film that digs deep in the problems of the illegal workers in England and the hard conditions that they suffer. We follow the steps of Angie, a beautiful British recruiter who will fall in the dark side of morals and ethics when starts her own recruiting company. Entertaining and at the same time compromised. 100% Loach.—its-a-free-world 


{mosimage}5) Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.  

Hunter S. Thompson is certainly a name to remember in our recent history. The father of Gonzo journalist opened a path of excesses that not many could follow (but many were and still are dreaming with it). A path of drugs abuse, taking experiences to the limit, including to ride 1 year together with Hell Angels in order to write a book (if you still have not read his books Hell Angels, run to the bookstore for it!). Director Alex Gibney gives you a detailed view of the talented and neurotic journalist here. If after this you feel hungry of more about Hunter S. Thompson, you can always take a look at the superb acting work of Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, where Mr. Thompson makes a cameo.—gonzo-the-life-and-work-of-dr-hunter-s-thompson         

Cinema Features

It’s film time!

A typical Finnish weather welcomes the guests of this year’s Tampere Film Festival. But the festival offers a way to escape cold and snow and to travel to exotic places. In this edition the festival takes a look at the new films from South Korea, the current trends in Russian and the cinema done by Palestinians and their neighbours. The festival opens today and it will show nearly 500 films during five days.


As usual, the festival offers also interesting retrospectives on diverse filmmakers. One of the most outstanding British avant garde filmmakers, John Smith, will present Hotel Diaries, a series of video recordings made in hotel rooms. Smith will be in Tampere and will discuss his work on Saturday 7.3 after the screening of Hotel Diaries.

Swedish Johan Hagelbäck will show a collection of his animation and music videos. The festival also offers the opportunity of watching some of the short films by veteran Finnish director Kari Paljakka, who this year was commissioned to organize the special screening Carte Blanche, to which he chose short films by Roman Polanski, among others, and classic Finnish documentaries.

The Tampere Film Festival characterizes for premiering in Finland relevant music films and documentaries. In the last years, Neil Young’s Heart of Gold and RamonesEnd of the Century were shown at the festival. This year the focus is on Kurt Cobain with the screening of the documentary About a Son. Directed by AJ Schnack this is a portray of the leader of Nirvana based on more than 25 hours of interviews conducted by journalist Michael Azerrad for his book Come As You Are. The festival also premieres Jouko Aaltonen’s documentary about Finnish punk, Punksters & Youngsters (Punk – Tauti joka ei tapa).

Finally, the theme of the traditional night long Saturday party is devoted this year to Finland. The long Suomi Night Saturday proposes a celebration of the Peculiar Mentality of Finns. It’s Finland 101: eight hours with new and old Finnish short films, city promotion videos, music videos and Aki Kaurismäki’s Total Balalaika Show as the star of the night at midnight.
5-9 March
All screenings have English subtitles