This morning, my daily newspaper reminded me of a John Cage-quote: “I like to be moved, but I don’t like to be pushed”. Two days ago in Oulu, Finland, I found myself in a situation which I liked. It might have been some of the vodka from the night before, but during the end credits of this film my eyes couldn’t resist the welling of moist any more. Am I that big a cry-baby? Well, I know I wasn’t the only one in the theatre feeling this way and the film just slowly took a gentle grip of my throat and never let go.
Kai is a Finnish musician who – after he got a son – realizes that he in a strange way misses a sense of belonging, probably because he spent most of his childhood in Sweden. The film consists for a large part of him and his father going on a road trip to Gothenburg trying to understand that period. Kai and his father have never spoken much of the moving back and forth between countries, thus giving Kai a sense of rootlessness. Now they gradually start to talk – and on the way they are also meeting other Finnish Swedes under various circumstances which weaves into the story and theme.
The other main part of the film is even more congenially intertwined. It consists of live recordings of songs written by Finnish Swedes in the past and now performed by a new generation on the very locations Kai and his father reaches on their trip. It sounds corny, and it probably is, but it works so well and the music and the lyrics are poetically commenting on the theme of not quite belonging or even being looked down on as a foreigner in a foreign country.
Three cameras followed the pair on the trip and the cinematic skills – the filming, the editing and the sound mix – are just as they should be. Okay, maybe there is a few times where you suspect the director has asked those taking part in the film to say specific things or that they themselves were self-conscious about bringing information to the audience. And maybe you see one or two birds too many (the trick the film uses to tell us that Kai is thinking of his own ornithology interested son), but I can forgive that because Kai’s and his father’s relationship is depicted so empathically with lots of sweet moments, music, dialogue and pauses.
It didn’t win anything at Nordisk Panorama and has been rejected at both CPH:DOX and IDFA which either proofs that festival juries and selecting committees are insensitive bastards or that I really am a wuss. Okay, it may not be cutting edge or a glimpse into the future of documentary film making, but it really should be a globally appealing film. I feel very rooted in my Danish soil and I don’t have kids, but still I will have to give it at full six pens – simply because it made such a profound impression by moving me and not pushing me.
Mika Ronkainen: Finnish Blood, Swedish Heart, Finland 2012, 90 min. Seen at Nordisk Panorama in Oulu, Finland.
I made a quite grave mistake above in the review: Sweden finns and Finnish swedes are two completely different things
Kai and father don’t meet Finnish swedes in Sweden cos Finnish swedes live in Finland. They meet Sweden finns.