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Finland is Country in Focus at 30th FILMKUNSTFEST Mecklenburg-West Pomerania

Opening night with Mika Kaurismäki's latest movie "Gracious Night"

Current feature films, documentaries and short films from this year's guest country Finland will be presented during the festival from August 31st - September 5th, 2021

The latest feature film by Finnish director Mika Kaurismäki, "Gracious Night", opens on the 30th FILMKUNSTFEST Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania as the German premiere on the 31st of August in the state capital Schwerin and thus sets the starting point for an extensive programme from this year's guest country Finland.

Mika Kaurismäki will personally present the feature film to the local audience at the festival cinema Filmpalast Capitol. Finland's Ambassador to Germany, Anne Sipiläinen, and the Minister President of Mecklenburg- Western Pommerania, Manuela Schwesig and German actor Ulrich Tukur ("Amen!") with his “Rhythmus Boys” are also expected.

In "Gracious Night" (original title: "Yö Armahtaa"), Mika Kaurismäki tells the story of three people who, in search of conviviality during the lockdown, find themselves in a pub in the Finnish capital Helsinki. Not only because of the conversations, but also because of other unexpected guests, the evening becomes longer than expected. Once again, Mika Kaurismäki proves his aptitude for current topics and atmosphere with "Gracious Night".

Mika and his brother Aki Kaurismäki have virtually embodied contemporary Finnish film since the 1980s. “Gracious Night" was filmed in the pub that the brothers run in Helsinki: the “Corona Bar”! The film distributer Arsenal will release the film in Germany on the 16th of December.

With a series of unusual short and feature films, Mika Kaurismäki gained a reputation as a versatile auteur of world cinema. Such films are the thriller "Helsinki-Napoli - All Night Long" from 1988 or the road movie "Honey Baby" from 2004, but above all with numerous music documentaries, some of which he shot in his adopted country Brazil (such as "Brasileirinho", 2005).

Other current Finnish feature films in the programme of the 30th FILMKUNSTFEST MV are the generational portrait “Games people play" by director Jenni Toivoniemi. Topic is the reunion of eight childhood friends that is thrown off balance and rivalries, tensions and old scores come to the fore.

Furthermore, the tragicomedy "Forrest Giant" by director Ville Jankeri will be screened during the festival. It is about the upwardly mobile Pasi, who has started a hopeful career in an international timber company and is to make dismissals in the factory in his home village. The drama "The Last Ones" by Estonian director Veiko Öunpuu casts a critical spotlight on the life of the Finnish Lapland minority in the villages of the tundra. On the radar is also the conflict-ridden relationship between reindeer herders and mine workers under harsh working conditions.

The Finnish-Swedish creator of the world-famous cartoon characters, the Mummins, who still enjoy great popularity today, is featured in director Zaida Bergroth’s film. The captivating artist drama "Tove" tells the story of the unusual life of children's book illustrator Tove Jansson (1914-2001). (German distributer: Salzgeber)

The documentary "Nature Symphony" by the award-winning nature filmmaker Marko Röhr focuses entirely on impressive images of the fascinating Finnish flora and fauna and is presented as an open-air screening in the courtyard of Schwerin Castle. The nature film, accompanied by symphonic music, will be introduced by the director himself and by Ilias Missyris, the director of the Vaasa Wildlife Festival, which takes place in Schwerin's Finnish twin city Vaasa.

For the first time in Germany, two English-subtitled episodes of the highly acclaimed Finnish television series "Peacemaker" by director Aj Annila ("The Eternal Road") are presented. The thriller, which is set against the backdrop of the Kurdish conflict in the web of global politics and the arms trade, is fast-paced and exciting and proves impressively that TV series can be produced in Finland at a high international level. The film was also shot in Southwest Finland, Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania’s partner region, and representatives of the local Film Commission are expected in Schwerin.

The director of the renowned international short film festival in Tampere, Finland, Jukka-Pekka Laakso, has put together a special short film programme for the FILMKUNSTFEST MV with six very different contributions, which completes the cross-section of filmmaking from this year's guest country.

Numerous filmmakers from Finland are expected to attend the screenings.

The artistic director of the FILMKUNSTFEST MV, Volker Kufahl, emphasises: "Finnish cinema is vital, diverse and lives from its strong stories. In selecting current productions, it was important to us to emphasise the cultural connections between our guest country and Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania, which are based on city and regional partnerships, among other things."

Résumé of the 29th FILMKUNSTFEST MV: 'System Crasher' has been given wings

While SYSTEM CRASHER wins the Fliegender Ochse (Flying Ox, with reference to the ox in the coat of arms of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania), main award of the feature-film competition, Actress Katharina Thalbach takes home the Goldener Ochse for Lifetime Achievement (Golden Ox, the honorary award of the Schwerin film festival; see picture).

Thanks to a festival programme that was characterised not only by many female filmmakers  but also by a powerful range of films, the 29th FILMKUNSTFEST MV was eventually visited by 19,200 spectators having watched 120 films. Hence, this year's attendance clearly exceeded the previous record of approximately 18,000 visitors in 2017.

”The 29th year in the history of the FILMKUNSTFEST MV has surpassed all our expectations,” the festival’s Artistic Director Volker Kufahl said. “We are truly pleased that both the audience and the juries appreciated the programme we had thoughtfully put together and which comprised many films revolving around topics relevant to society. I am particularly glad that our Focus Ireland section attracted such an overwhelming interest”.

After a suspense-packed start with the German premiere of the psychological thriller film GRETA directed by Irish grandseigneur Neil Jordan (THE CRYING GAME, 1993), the number of cinemagoers remained on a constantly high level.

1,000 spectators alone attended the two film concerts along the screening of Charlie Chaplin’s silent-film classic THE GOLD RUSH from 1925. The Mecklenburg State Orchestra, conducted by Martin Schelhaas, played Chaplin’s score to the film.

Along with the honorary award for Katharina Thalbach, 11 other prices were conferred during the festival’s award ceremony at the Mecklenburg State Theatre. The German film SYSTEM CRASHER won the feature-film competition’s Best Film Award, the Fliegender Ochse, the FIPRESCI Critics’ Choice Award, the Best Music and Sound Design Award as well as the Advancement Award of the DEFA Foundation. The Austrian film THE GROUND BENEATH MY FEET, partly filmed in the city of Rostock, won the NDR Best Director Award, actress Valerie Pachner received the Best Up-and-coming Actor Award.

The German entry LET THE BELL RING about an American boxer, directed by Christin Freitag, won the Best Documentary Feature Award. Daniel Samer took home the Best Cinematography in a Documentary Feature Award for his camera work in Stephan Hilpert’s CONGO CALLING. The Best Children’s and Youth Film Award LEO was won by the imaginative adventure film CLEO set in Berlin, directed by the German director and screenwriter Erik Schmitt. The Audience Award was won by Sherry Hormann’s A REGULAR WOMAN. On Sherry Hormann’s behalf, Christoph Ott of the film’s distribution company NFP marketing & distribution accepted the award. Just like many other festival visitors, Ott valued highly the selection of competition entries and added that the FILMKUNSTFEST MV “showcases excellence”.

The 13 guests from Ireland were particularly chuffed about the curiosity and open-mindedness of the Schwerin festival audience, with the German-Irish author Ralf Sotscheck, who contributed a reading session, the Irish photo journalist Derek Speirs, whose exhibition titled CHILDREN can be visited in Schwerin until the end of May, Don O’Mahony, the curator of the Cork Film Festival short-film programme, actress Hazel Doupe (FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY) and her fellow actor Dafhyd Flynn (MICHAEL INSIDE) leading the way.

Some of the 9 feature films and 15 short films from the Focus Ireland section of this year’s FILMKUNSTFEST MV programme made specific reference to the civil war in Northern Ireland, such as the documentary feature I, DOLOURS directed by Maurice Sweeney about the IRA leader Dolours Price that premiered in Germany at the festival. During the film’s Q&A talk, Sweeney expressed his concern that Northern Irish who have not come to terms with the traumas the conflict in Northern Ireland had caused, especially the generation between 16 and 20, may rekindle the violence in the course of the impending Brexit. In his opinion, the recent murder of journalist Lyra McKee was a tragic indication for his apprehension.

The Irish Film Institute, Culture Ireland and the Arts Council of Ireland supported the Focus Ireland section.

Films about the history of the GDR and the 1990 change proved very popular among the Schwerin audience members. On the latter subject, Peter-Michael Diestel, the last Minister of the Interior of the German Democratic Republic, was a guest at the festival. Bernd Böhlich, the director of SEALED LIPS, and his film team were also pleased about a crowded cinema hall when their drama film about a young German communist who had been wrongfully convicted under Stalin in the USSR celebrated its German premiere as part of this year’s feature-film competition. Böhlich was accompanied by actresses Swetlana Schönfeld, Barbara Schnitzler, Carlotta von Falkenhayn as well as their fellow male actor Peer Jäger. A large audience moreover attended the screening of Evelyn Schmidt’s DEFA films THE BICYCLE (1982) and ESCAPADE (1980) in their recently digitised editions. The 29th FILMKUNSTFEST MV also commemorated Heinz Brinkmann, one of the festival’s co-founders, in a special In Memoriam screening of his documentary film FALLWURF BÖHME. Heinz Brinkmann passed away on April 4th, 2019.

The topic of this year’s Film Industry Conference, hosted by FILM COMMISSION MV on May 2nd and attended by some 100 spectators, was the current status of film and media promotion in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, a topic Minister President Manuela Schwesig also addressed during her speech at the opening ceremony. Along the intended institutional restructuring for film promotion, the representative of the state also announced a newly established cinema award for outstanding and high-class film programmes in cinemas in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

FILMLAND MV General Manager Volker Kufahl emphasised the increasing attractivity of filming locations in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and pointed out that by more appealing financial and promotional instruments this attractivity might be boosted.