Looking for the next little gems to pick up at script stage for international sales or finished film to programme at home, international guests gathered for the 3rd Finnish Film Affair (FFA) in Helsinki were won over by the relaxed yet extremely professional event organised by Love & Anarchy Film Festival team, and most importantly, by the quality and diversity of Finnish films on display.

Pape Boye from Versatile Films, sales agent to the Norwegian multi-awarded film Blind, felt this year’s Works in Progress were ‘much stronger than last year’. “The genres were very different and several directors showed impressive materials. I have seen two-three films that I’m interested in which is very good considering there were only 10 Works in Progress.” Veteran sales agent Keiko Funato from Paris-based Alpha Violet who attended FFA for the second time to pick up titles in post-production ready for Rotterdam or Berlin, was very pleased to be able to choose from a larger array of titles available for international distribution than the previous year. “I have seen interesting projects and I have booked five meetings with producers.“

Xavier Henry-Rashid from London based sales outfit Film Republic was on hand to discuss pre-Oscar promotional strategy for Finland’s Oscar contender Concrete Night. “It’s my first time at FFA. It’s nice to see how Finnish producers are relaxed yet professional with their pitches. I’m always looking for visually strong storytelling and some projects at FFA caught my eye” he said.

Titles that gathered the strongest buzz in the documentary genre include Samuli Valkama’s Curious Skin focusing on the charismatic dance artist Tero Saariren, an enchanting invitation to dance and to live in the moment. The documentary is produced by Mete Sasioglu’s Sons of Lumiere and sold internationally by Montreal-based MODemay Entertainment. Another popular doc in works in progress was Hobbyhorse Chicks (previously known as Stupid Young Heart) by the Academy- nominated Selma Vilhunen, (Do I have to Take Care of Everything). The film about teenage girls’ passion for hobbyhorses, a game usually targeting young kids, had FFA audiences laugh for its joyful, comical yet touching story. Tuffi Film’s producer Elli Toivoniemi said: “People laugh because hobbyhorses is an unusual hobby for teenagers, but the film asks the questions: are we the right persons to ask if that’s an interesting hobby or not and is it possible to live life and be yourself? Toivoniemi was looking for co-financiers and distribution partners at FFA.

Among the popular feature films pitched was Armi Alive! by veteran director Jörn Donner who surprisingly brings a musical twist to the biopic of Armi Ratia, founder of the iconic designer brand Marimekko. The film produced by Mark Lwoff and Misha Jaari (Bufo) will be delivered in the spring 2015.

The much anticipated latest project by Klaus Häro (Letters to Father Jacob) also impressed by the quality of its production value and strong and topical storyline. The drama set in Russian-occupied Estonia in the 1950s, is the story of a fencing teaching in a small Estonian school, faced with the dilemma of helping children fulfil their dreams or save himself from the Communists. “The film with a universal theme is about parenthood and giving up yourself for the sake of someone else”, said the director who reminded the audience of the topicality of the subject in the wake of Russia’s move into Ukraine. 

The three day Finnish Film Affair that closed yesterday was organised by the Helsinki International Film Festival ‘Love & Anarchy’ with support from FAVEX,  the Finnish Film Foundation, Media Desk Finland, the Central Organisation of Finnish Film Producers SEK, Finland Film Commission, the Ministry of Education and Culture and Ministry for Foreign Affairs for Finland.