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Finland’s biggest and most diverse film festival has announced this year’s gala films and the films of the traditional HIFF open-air screenings.

The 32nd HIFF will open with BLINDED BY THE LIGHT, the new film by the British director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham, HIFF 2002). The film takes place in the gloomy late-1980s Luton where Javed, a 16-year-old aspiring writer of Pakistani origin, finds salvation in Bruce Springsteen’s music. An energetic feel-good rock musical, it feels like an uplifting cocktail of one’s favourite tunes.

The long-awaited new film by the legendary director Terrence Malick, A HIDDEN LIFE, closes the festival in an epic mood. A poetic telling of the story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian WWII conscientious objector, it is a masterful tour de force of cinema and marks the return of its director to the limelight. The film had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and features an important role by the Swiss actor Bruno Ganz who passed away this spring.

The Finnish Gala presents MARIA’S PARADISE, the new film by director Zaida Bergroth (The Good Son, HIFF 2011, and Miami, HIFF 2017), that comes to HIFF freshly after its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Based on real events, the film transports its viewers into the 1920s and to the religious sect led by Maria Åkerblom (Pihla Viitala). The suspenseful film tells of Salome (Satu Tuuli Karhu), a teenager who adores Åkerblom, but comes to question her loyalties when she begins to see the truth behind the sect’s actions.

PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE (Portrait de la jeune fille en feu), the Cannes Best Screenplay winner, will be screened in the Love & Anarchy Gala that celebrates the new currents of cinematic art. Written and directed by the French Céline Sciamma (Tomboy, HIFF 2011, and Girlhood, HIFF 2014), it is a love story set in 18th century Brittany where Marianne, a portraitist (Noémie Merlant), travels to an isolated island to paint the wedding portrait of a reluctant bride (Adèle Haenel). Their relationship grows into love in a masterpiece that has been called The Piano of the 21st century.

The first ever R&A Shorts Gala provides a unique opportunity to see the year’s most eagerly anticipated domestic short film event on the silver screen. The short film series ONE-OFF INCIDENT constitutes of eleven short films that raise awareness of the exercise of power towards women in private lives as well as in society. The new gala is part of the Cut to the Chase – R&A Shorts event organized in conjunction with HIFF.

Blinded by the Light and A Hidden Life will hit the Finnish cinemas in Autumn 2019, distributed by SF Studios. Maria’s Paradise will be distributed by Nordisk Film and Portrait of a Lady on Fire by Cinemanse. The feature film FORCE OF HABIT, based on six of the One-Off Incident shorts, will have its Finnish premiere on September 27 distributed by Tuffi Films.

HIFF Fights Climate Change

A number of HIFF films seek solutions to the historic challenge presented by climate change. Among them are the breathtaking ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH that portrays the traces left on Earth by mankind, the Sundance award winner HONEYLAND about Macedonia’s last beekeeper, and the gently humoristic VILLAGE OF SWIMMING COWS. The fight against climate change is also featured in the festival events.

– Mankind faces a huge crisis, but many of the keys to the solution already exist. What is essential is that we collectively, socially, and politically change our way of thinking about and to relate to our environment. This is the mental challenge that we want to examine while we consider the role that film can have in this fight, says Anna Möttölä, Executive Director of HIFF.

As of this year, HIFF will pay increased attention to environmental sustainability in its production. An important step is joining the Think Sustainably project of the City of Helsinki. By its activities, HIFF wishes to encourage the entire Finnish film industry to take steps towards an ecologically sustainable future.

Open-Air Screenings and Important Dates

The traditional Love & Anarchy open-air screenings will return to the Lasipalatsi Square on September 6–8. Catch Harmony Korine’s cult film SPRING BREAKERS (2012), Barry Jenkins’ Oscar-winning MOONLIGHT (2014) and the touching FACES PLACES (Visages villages, 2017) by Agnès Varda who passed away in the spring.

During the eleven festival days, some 160 feature films and 190 shorts will be shown in approximately 470 screenings at a total of 20 auditoriums in the cinemas of the metropolitan region.

The cinemas of the 32nd HIFF are Finnkino Itis, Kino Engel, Kinopalatsi, Kino Regina, Kino Tapiola, Korjaamo Kino Bio Rex & Töölö, Maxim, Orion, Riviera, Savoy Theatre, Tennispalatsi and WHS Teatteri Union.

The festival programme and the festival catalogue will be available for the public on September 5. The Cut to the Chase – R&A Shorts programme will be announced on August 29. Tickets for individual screenings will be sold from September 12th onwards.

More programme announcements will follow on the R&A Media website that takes the traditional festival magazine into the web and in social media.

The 32nd HIFF is held on September 19–29, 2019.