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Finland’s largest and most diverse film festival Helsinki International Film Festival – Love & Anarchy fills up the big screens in September. The festival opens up with NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS, the fresh US indie awarded at the Berlin International Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival. The eleven-day festival will be screening about 140 feature films and 170 short films in a total of approximately 560 screenings. Out of the festival films this year, 51 % have been directed by women or non-binary people. Because of the corona pandemic, special measures will be taken in order to ensure a safe and comfortable festival experience for the audience. The 33rd Helsinki International Film Festival – Love & Anarchy will take place on September 17–27.

The opening film of HIFF is the long-awaited NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS (2020), directed by Eliza Hittman. Awarded at the Berlinale and the Sundance Film Festival, the film tells the story of the teenager Autumn (Sidney Flanigan), accompanied by her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder), on her way to New York to get an abortion. With perception and exceptional sensitivity, the film reveals the injustices abundant in the US healthcare system.

The Finnish Gala film is Hamy Ramezan’s ANY DAY NOW (Ensilumi, 2020). Ramezan is previously known for his award-winning short films and the documentary Unknown Refugee (Tuntematon pakolainen, 2017). The director’s first fictional feature film is about the everyday life of an Iranian family of asylum seekers at the reception centre and school, set in the Finnish summer. This beautiful and deeply touching film depicts its refugees with a humane warmth often missing from the current debate on these issues. Any Day Now will be distributed by Nordisk Film starting from October the 16th.

Director Benh Zeitlin earned the love of cinephiles everywhere with his directorial debut Beasts of the Southern Wild (HIFF 2012) and now he returns to the silver screen with the Love & Anarchy Gala Film WENDY (2020). The story of Peter Pan is turned upside down and told from the perspective of Wendy Darling, the mother figure of the Lost Boys. The film stirs up the deepest emotions, focusing on the core themes of the fable – the fear of getting older, power of childish imagination, motherhood and our connection with nature. Cinemanse will bring Wendy to cinemas starting from the 25th of September.

HIFF will be organizing the Season Gala in honour of the Season Film Festival, which was cancelled in spring and postponed to be held simultaneously with HIFF. Screened at the Season Gala will be the milestone of contemporary African-American film, QUEEN & SLIM (2019), a topical look on its characters on the run across the southern parts of the US. Melina Matsoukas, known for directing Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade, comments on racism with this hypnotical love story starring the magnificent Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, 2017) and Jodie Turner-Smith.

Love & Anarchy Trailblazers, showcasing film history gems with a flair of love and anarchy, gets its very own gala. Parasite-famed director Bong Joon-Ho’s earlier masterpiece MEMORIES OF MURDER (2003) tells of the desperate chase of a serial killer, set in the 1980s South Korean countryside. This sombre, atmospheric and multi-layered murder mystery has influenced the TV series True Detective among many others. After the festival, Memories of Murder will be screened at cinemas by Future Film in Autumn 2020.

The cherry on top, at the end of the eleven-day festival is the Australian festival favourite BABYTEETH (2019). Shannon Murphy’s rugged indie romance tells of the problematic first love of Milla – a teen diagnosed with cancer. Despite the serious subject matter, the film is bursting with humour, colour and youthful bliss. The leading part is played by the Australian rising star Eliza Scanlen (e.g. Little Women, 2019; Sharp Objects, 2018). Babyteeth will be distributed by Atlantic Film later in 2020.

Quality Films From Around the World

HIFF celebrates the diversity of voices in the form of mind-blowing cinema. Director Chloé Zhao’s (The Rider, HIFF 2018) latest film NOMADLAND (2020) stars Frances McDormand as a sixty-year-old who roams around the political reality of the US as a modern-day nomad. Another road film is FIRST COW (2020), a US indie-Western directed by the HIFF favourite Kelly Reichardt. The star of the Love & Anarchy Trailblazers is the African-American silent film masterpiece WITHIN OUR GATES (1920, dir. Oscar Micheaux) celebrating its centennial this year.

As usual, quality films will be presented this year from all over the world. Films from different parts of Africa get their own series, showcasing among others the Sudanese film festival hit YOU WILL DIE AT TWENTY (2019,) by Amjad Abu Alala. Competing for the title of the grittiest film of the year is the violent and biographical crime film TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG (2019), directed by the Australian Justin Kurzel.

Half of the Films at HIFF Directed by Women and Non-binary People

HIFF has reached its goal set in the international film industry’s 5050×2020 Pledge for Gender Parity and Inclusion in Film Festivals. Out of this year’s films at HIFF, 51 % have been directed by a woman or a non-binary person. Women have directed 37 % of the feature films and 62 % of the short films chosen. Out of all of the 850 films considered for the festival, 35 % had a non-male director. Women account for 80 % of the Love & Anarchy Festival Ministry, who choose the films for the programme.

Representation in Finnish films and TV series will also be discussed in the panels of the Finnish Film Affair – the biggest film industry event in Finland held during HIFF.

Practical Changes Due to COVID-19

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, extra attention is paid to hygiene and to the safety of the festival attendees. Ticket availability at venues has been limited to half of the normal capacity. Social distancing regulations are also implemented in other areas of the festival cinemas. The auditoriums will be cleaned regularly, and the festival staff will be present to instruct the festival guests as needed. The festival will be adhering to the guidelines and recommendations of the health officials. For more information on the new practices, please see the coronavirus press release attached to this press package.

For better accessibility, this year a selection of HIFF films will be available at home as well. A part of the programme’s films can be screened on the Festival Scope service, which can be found via the festival’s website. In addition, a top selection of films from previous editions of the HIFF will be available on Yle Teema and Yle Areena. These films include Call Me By Your Name (HIFF 2017), Whiplash (HIFF 2014) and God’s Own Country (HIFF 2017).

Some HIFF films can also be enjoyed in selected cinemas in October. Love & Anarchy Afterglow screenings make it possible for viewers to see the films they wanted, despite the recent seating restrictions. The festival programme is now available on the festival’s website. Single tickets for the festival and the Love & Anarchy Afterglow screenings will be up for sale starting from the 10th of September.