Our Documentaries in Progress & Development selection showcases nine Finnish documentaries. These projects will also compete for the Best Documentary Project Award, which is a 3000€ package from AVEK to be used towards the making of an international trailer of the film.

The jury for Best Documentary Project:
Oleksandra Kravchenko, Producer, Moon Man
Mita Suri, Film Programme Producer, Sheffield Doc/Fest
Debra Zimmerman, Executive Director, Women Make Movies

Grains of Paradise

Sibiry Konate is from a small village in Burkina Faso, but more than 10 years ago he moved to Finland to pursue his dream as a professional choreographer. For his friends and family he’s now become a ‘bengis’, a relatively rich European who could solve many problems.
In reality, Sibiry’s life consists of mundane struggles and the money is never sufficient. Nobody seems to want to hear the truth. Sibiry feels he has become a synonym for money while he himself has a need to gain back belonging.

Sibiry decides to give the villagers a mentality shift. He buys a cheap minibus destined to the villagers for them to take progress into their own hands, lifting the prevailing mindset to wait for a saviour from outside and – most importantly restoring dignity.
Will Sibiry be able to make a change, unmask the bengis and free himself from the status he doesn’t want?

Director: Jenni Kivistö and Jussi Rastas
Producer: Ella Ruohonen, co-producers: Johanna Aygalenq-Tomaschewski and Mamounata Nikiema
Writer: Jenni Kivistö and Jussi Rastas
Production company: Väki Films Oy, co-producers: Ellis Films, Pilumpiku Production
Country: Finland, France, Burkina Faso
Looking for: Sales agent, Distribution, Festivals, Financing
Sales company: Available

The crisis of the performing arts together with his upcoming 60th anniversary drive a well-known actor, Martti, to experience feelings of emptiness. He is lost in the digitalized cultural field, which during the pandemic, is being revived with smart devices. When a joyful dream of Martti´s youth returns, he decides to follow the dream – a dream about an old-time travelling theatre.

As the national theatres open up to the public again, Martti sells out to big stages to finance his dream. He performs a famous absurd play in which the days follow each other in the same manner, and the wait for something greater gives the only meaning to life. Martti discovers that the play is shaking his mental health.

As the world around him is rushing forward, Martti needs to go backwards. Pursuing his dream, he faces demons and role characters from his past, all of which the actor carries inside. To find inner strength against his demons, Martti gets to know his grandfather, from whom he inherited both his name and profession. Does establishing the travelling theatre bring a new balance to life? What are we waiting for when we are waiting for something greater to happen?

Genre: DRAMA, BIOPIC, documentary/hybrid
Director: Mari Mantela
Producer: Severi Koivusalo
Writer: Mari Mantela
Production company: Aurora Pictures
Country: Finnish
Looking for: Distribution, Festivals, Co-producers, Sales agent, Financing
Sales company: Available

Aida, a child on the autism spectrum, decides to fix society’s structures that are making life difficult for children like her with the help of her mother and caregiver Johanna. Aida is determined to challenge existing norms and foster acceptance. But can the hard efforts of mother and daughter change the world before their strength runs out?

People on the spectrum are constantly asked to change themselves in order to fit in. The film’s impact work shifts the focus and asks the majority to make room instead.

Director: Maija Hirvonen
Producer: Juha Löppönen
Writer: Maija Hirvonen
Production company: Mouka Filmi
Country: Finland
Looking for: Festivals, Sales agent, Distribution, Financing
Sales company: Available
Once Upon a Time in a Forest (working title)

Once Upon a Time in a Forest is a feature documentary about radical young people who are defending one of the last coniferous forest areas in Europe. It is both a generational film that reflects the environmental feelings of the youth, and a love story of a younger generation whose object of love is the Finnish forest.

The protagonists come face to face with the Finnish forest industry and a deeply rooted national ideology of the forest being the foundation for the nation’s economic well-being. As a protest against deforestation, a new forest action group called _Forest Movement, Metsäliike_, was born in Finland in 2021.

The film intimately follows close Ida, Minka and Otto, throughout 18 months of forest surveying, secret strategy meetings and open conflicts – yet we also get to see the more personal side of their lives where they escape activism to karaoke and dancing, or seek consolation from their grandmother ́s lap.

Director: Virpi Suutari
Producer: Virpi Suutari
Writer: Virpi Suutari
Production company: Euphoria film
Country: Finland
Looking for: Sales agent, Festivals, Distribution
Sales company: Available
Showtime in Helsinki

On July 30th 1975, after years of painful negotiations, 35 world leaders gathered in Helsinki for an unprecedented three-day Cold War extravaganza: the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe, sometimes referred to as the Helsinki Accords – or known as well by its sexy acronym CSCE. Gerald Ford, Leonid Brezhnev, Harold Wilson, Erich Honecker and Josip Broz Tito were among the lineup of attendees.

The agreement they’d come to sign was, according to some, supposed to end the Cold War, but the turnout was far from pleasing anyone: the Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn said the agreement was the “funeral of eastern Europe”, the New York Times stated it was “misguided and empty”, and Henry Kissinger privately called it “meaningless”. It wasn’t until 30 years later that people grasped the real impact of what occurred: Helsinki had been the starting point for the demise of the Soviet Empire and the totalitarian rule in Eastern Europe.

Showtime in Helsinki is an all-archival fever dream about a meaningless conference that changed the world, with haunting thematic parallels to our present day life: realism vs. principles; hope vs. cynicism; peace vs. imperial anxiety.

Director: Arthur Franck
Producer: Oskar Forstén
Writer: Arthur Franck
Production company: Polygraf
Country: Finland
Looking for: Sales agent, Distribution, Festivals, Co-producers, Financing
Sales company: Available
Standing in My Power

Standing in My Power is a depiction of the contemporary childbirth culture in Finland seen from the perspective of two birth professionals, doula Anna-Riitta and midwife Kirsi. They have discovered a great deal of control, fear and prejudice associated with childbirth. They call themselves ‘birth activists’ who fight for a better birth experience and the rights of the birthing people.

Despite their similar starting points, Anna-Riitta and Kirsi both fight a battle of their own. Doula Anna-Riitta defends the rights of gender and sexual minorities through the Doula Academy that she established. She finds it difficult to understand why the public has not understood that not all people giving birth are women by gender. Spirituality-loving Kirsi seems to be straddling two worlds: after hiding the home birth activism for years, she is ready to reveal her true colours and becomes a respected expert on home delivery among her colleagues.

The struggle of the two protagonists against the norms of their community brings out the theme of acceptance of difference. The theme of freedom and an individual’s right to self-determination is mirrored in the culture of childbirth.

Director: Karoliina Gröndahl
Producer: Kirsi Mattila
Writer: Karoliina Gröndahl
Production company: Icebreaker Productions
Country: Finland
Looking for: Distribution, Sales agent, Festivals
Sales company: Available
The Art of Reindeer Racing

Quiet Catlyn’s life is drastically shaken when she gets interested in reindeer racing. It is a world that she must overtake in order to grow as a person – even if it is a little scary at times.

The Art of Reindeer Racing is a documentary film about Catlyn, 13, who lives in the periphery and gets to know her neighbour Sari Kettunen, 51, the champion of a past year’s Reindeer Cup. Sari starts to coach Catlyn for the next winter’s Reindeer Cup.

Sari is not the usual kind of reindeer racer, and it has been a rocky road to the top for her. She wants to share her wisdom so that it’ll be easier for Catlyn. Sari takes Catlyn with her to all various reindeer jobs and Catlyn gets to know this wild and unpredictable animal as well as its annual rhythm.

Through Catlyn’s story, the film shows what it’s like to grow up in a small rural town where nature, solitude and silence are the dominating forces in life, and where finding one’s own “thing” can change the course of everything. It is a growth story in which through a new hobby and with Sari’s support, Catlyn finds confidence to be herself.

Director: Mervi Junkkonen
Producer: Jouko Aaltonen, Antonio Russo Merenda
Writer: Mervi Junkkonen
Production company: Illume Ltd, Ginestra Film AB
Country: Finland, Sweden
Looking for: Financing, Co-producers
Sales company: Available
The Last Misfits By The Golden River

A film about land, generation gaps and things coming to an end. The film follows the human fates of a 150-year-old gold miner community living in the distant Lapland wilderness. At the core of the story are the youngest and the oldest members of the community – they represent the past and present that are still coexisting in the gold lands.

The miners’ peaceful life comes to an end when a new law forces them to abandon their way of living. Some try to fight, but as our story proceeds, it becomes obvious that our main characters will experience a personal end of the world, which moves them into the stream of history. At the end of the film, all the miners have left the wilderness, and the lands have been devoted to recreational use by tourists.

The film will be a warm and unique viewing experience based on a strong story. Beating at its heart is the extraordinary collection of characters with rough-hewn faces, depicted through painting-like visual expression. A vital role is also played by the miners’ sense of humour and special self-irony that shines through their philosophy – life can be both funny and sad. The main theme of the film is the only permanent thing there is: change.

Director: Juho-Pekka Tanskanen
Producer: Isabella Karhu
Writer: Juho-Pekka Tanskanen
Production company: Danish Bear Productions Oy
Country: Finland
Looking for: Sales agent, Distribution, Festivals, Co-producers, Financing
Sales company: Available is a documentary about fake news, and the way Bulgaria and the Balkans are used to destabilize Europe. We follow an investigative journalist, Genka Shikerova, on her way to discover who is behind the distribution of fake news and the hybrid war that is taking place at the moment.

Genka, 43, lives in Sofia and has been an investigative journalist for more than 20 years. Currently, she works for Radio Free Europe. During all this time, her life has been threatened and she has been heavily targeted online.

The EU parliamentary elections will take place in 2024. Two big issues for Bulgarians are the membership in the Schengen area, and entering the eurozone – in anti-West circles, these are seen as the ultimate evil, since in both Bulgaria and the Balkans there are very strong pro-Russian/anti-West forces on the move.

Genka will follow all the fake news and trolling that is linked to these elections. She will follow the trail of news and the money, from the local level to as high as it is possible. This forms the spine of our narration.

Director: Tonislav Hristov
Producer: Kaarle Aho
Writer: Tonislav Hristov & Kaarle Aho
Production company: Making Movies Oy
Country: Finland-Bulgaria
Looking for: Sales agent, Distribution, Festivals, Co-producers, Financing
Sales company: available