As the Finnish Film Affair embarks on the start of its second decade, the organizers of the annual industry event, which runs parallel to the Helsinki International Film Festival — Love & Anarchy, can both reflect on 10 years of success and look ahead for ways to continue to serve both the Finnish and the Nordic film industries.
“Finnish Film Affair started in 2012 with 240 participants. This year, for our 11th edition, we have nearly 500 delegates attending from over 20 countries, with a third of them being international guests and buyers,” Finnish Film Affair director Maria Pirkkalainen told Variety on the eve of the event, which runs from Sept. 21 – 23.
It’s a return to form for a Nordic showcase that, like other industry events around the world, has faced a range of disruptions since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
“The past years haven’t been the easiest for the Nordic film industry, and festivals and market events have had their share of challenges as well,” said Pirkkalainen. “With the help and support of both old and new partners and collaborators, we are absolutely delighted to bring everyone our biggest and brightest event yet this year.”
Along with a showcase of nearly 50 Finnish films in its program, the Finnish Film Affair includes a host of discussions on topics including the prospects for theatrical distribution in the Nordics to the challenges and dreams of an emerging generation of filmmakers in their twenties.
Part of the event’s success has been its ability to evolve, as Pirkkalainen — now in her fourth year at the helm — and the organizing team continue to look for ways to respond to the industry’s needs. “As both the Finnish film industry and the event continue to grow, the question we had a few years ago was: ‘Where to next?’” she says.
One new wrinkle introduced two years ago was an award for a first- or second-time feature director from the Nordic region — an example of the Finnish Film Affair going beyond its roots in the host country. This year’s biggest addition will be an emphasis on Finnish drama series through a collaboration with the New Nordic Narratives development lab, which will include the on-stage presentation of four new local drama series in the early development stage during the Finnish Film Affair’s content showcase on Sept. 22.
That showcase will present 26 feature film and documentary projects to industry guests, including four features in the Nordic Selection competing for the best Nordic project award. Six Finnish features in development will be pitched to a live audience, alongside seven fiction works in progress and six documentaries from the host country in various stages of development and production. Some of the films that have launched from the stage in Helsinki in recent years include “The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki” by Juho Kuosmanen, “The Euthanizer” by Teemu Nikki and Selma Vilhunen’s “Stupid Young Heart.”
In addition, the Finnish Film Affair’s lineup includes 13 fiction films and eight documentaries that have already been completed and were selected by the organizers for their strong international potential. Among them are Klaus Härö’s English-language debut “My Sailor, My Love” (pictured), which will screen in Helsinki fresh off its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, and the documentary “Karaoke Paradise,” by director Einari Paakkanen, which played at Visions du Réel and Copenhagen’s CPH:DOX earlier this year.
To gauge the event’s success, one need look no further than attendance numbers that have grown 20% since Pirkkalainen took over in 2019 — this despite the disruptions caused by COVID-19. “It was already a great event with an excellent reputation when I joined the helm, and it feels like we’ve now reached the next level internationally and have definitely taken our place as a key industry destination,” she says.
To celebrate the Finnish Film Affair’s first decade, the organizing team recently compiled their first industry impact report, compiling input and case studies from both the local and international industry to assess the event’s effect on the growing Finnish film business.
“It’s been so great and encouraging to see the concrete impact we’ve had on the industry these past 10 years,” says Pirkkalainen. “Finnish Film Affair isn’t of course the only thing that has helped develop the Finnish industry in a more international direction; the producers, filmmakers, funders, as well as the audiovisual incentive, are all to thank. But having an event that brings everyone together and has a beloved reputation internationally has and will continue to have a great impact in this.”