Finland Bets on Black Humor and ‘Bold, Risky’ Topics at Series Mania (EXCLUSIVE)
As proven by a slew of new shows in development, series creators from Finland keep on experimenting.
“People are exploring some bold, risky topics. Ones that make you go: ‘Wow, they are really making a show about that?’,” says Laura Kuulasmaa, executive director from the producers’ association APFI.
Aamu Film Company’s “Monster,” about a teenage Nicke, realizing he is in love with his girlfriend’s 11-year-old sister, is bound to ignite discussions.
“I wanted to do this show because I believe that raising awareness of minor-attracted persons can save children from abuse,” creator Eva-Maria Koskinen tells Variety.
“It’s not about blurring any borders: Sexual contact between an adult and a child is wrong and also criminal. But research shows that when a minor-attracted person can’t talk about their sexuality, the pressure builds up. Wouldn’t we want people like Nicke to seek help, if it keeps them from the wrong path? Organizations doing that work still have a hard time getting funding in Finland and many other countries.”
Koskinen sees “Monster” as a story about a man who doesn’t want to harm anyone, about an adult woman who tries to understand why her childhood love suddenly disappeared and two families facing “the last taboo of our time,” she says.
“I think we have been so disgusted by this topic that we don’t dare go to the root of the problem. We don’t see what could actually help the children. I know, since I was once a child myself.”
The show won’t be violent, however, promises producer Jussi Rantamäki. With no physical abuse actually taking place.
“I didn’t become interested in this story because of some ‘shock value.’ It’s not going to be dark – it will be empathetic and humane. One of our protagonists has these feelings, but he is not acting on them. He is not committing any crimes,” he states.
Noting that having a female director on board, Hannaleena Hauru, was also crucial.
“Women are usually more aware of sexualization. Some time ago, Hannaleena was developing another story. It was set in jail and one of her protagonists had these impulses too. She was keen to finally address these issues.”
Aamu has already gained international recognition thanks to Cannes-awarded films, such as “Compartment No. 6.” Following in its footsteps, more acclaimed filmmakers are now making a move into series.
“It’s mainly due to the fact that budgets for dramas have at least tripled over the past five or six years, thanks to Business Finland’s production incentive and foreign investments,” says Kuulasmaa.
“We have been able to increase shooting days and production value. It’s appealing to all these producers, because there is enough financing now to make a good drama series. In 2014, 2015, that wasn’t really the case. We had 35 drama series released last year. In a country of 5 million people, it’s quite impressive.”
With eco-thriller “Tipping Point” recently crowned as the winner of the Series Mania prize in Berlin, upcoming Coming Next from Finland showcase will also spotlight “Miracle,” a mystery drama from Solar Republic – about a girl who grows up in a religious community and starts to lie about her “visions” – as well as the chilling “L/Over” by Gutsy Animations, showing just how easily love turns to hate, and to violence.
But Finnish creators are also embracing black humor, present throughout adult animation “Poridise,” based on the naughty works of Instagram phenomenon Pieruperse and diving right into “chlorine-smelling collective trauma hidden below the light blue surface” of the titular city. The viewers will also get to sympathize with the many struggles of Hodan, a Somali athlete dreaming of competing in the Winter Olympics as a ski jumper in “Critical Point,” yet currently stuck in the middle of nowhere in Lapland.
“I think that ‘quirkiness’ is a good thing – especially today, when you really need to stand out. Finnish shows have this special ingredient. We are also skilled at making things that look good, on a moderate budget,” notes Kuulasmaa.
“Last year, when we were hosting this showcase at Series Mania, we noticed that the shows were a little bit different. It wasn’t just Nordic Noir anymore. There is space for something else, something else than your basic crime. Although there is a steady demand for that still – especially in Central Europe.”
Fittingly, upcoming “Queen of Fucking Everything” – about a top real estate agent Linda who wakes up one day to find out that her husband is gone, leaving her with millions in debt – will be a “crime story without the police, but with some grim humor,” promises producer Minna Haapkylä of Rabbit Films.
As her shady construction business starts blooming, Linda recruits undocumented workers and arranges corrupted deals, all the while keeping her daily job. She also manages to join Helsinki’s criminal elite.
“It’s a story of a woman who loses everything and yet manages to regain not only that, but finds her true self in a completely different universe. And ultimately becomes, yes, a queen of fucking everything.”
Rabbit Films, also behind well-received “Summer of Sorrow,” is currently planning three seasons of the show, created and directed by Tiina Lymi.
“I have nothing against these ‘normal’ crime stories with their depressed police officers and young female victims. But unless there is something new, and true, I won’t be interested. That’s what Tiina gave me. She always makes sure that her characters are funny, even when they do horrible things,” says Haapkylä.
“I loved ‘Ozark,’ for example, but Wendy [played by Laura Linney] was more composed – Linda is horrible and funny at the same time. You want to tell her: ‘Please quit.’ But she can’t do it.”
Coming Next from Finland showcase will take place in Lille on March 21.
Production company: Whatevergroup
Producer: Antti Kaarlela
Writers: Antti Kaarlela, Antti Kairakari, Aleksi Puranen, Naima Mohamud
Director: Kaisa El Ramly
A Somali teenager arrives in Lapland, forging her way into adulthood with one goal in mind: Winning the Winter Olympics in ski jumping. Luckily, a former pro athlete notices her potential.
Production company: Gutsy Animations
Producers: Marika Makaroff, Kristina Rytkölä
Broadcaster: MTV / C More
Writers: Frog Stone, Sophie Swithinbank, Kevin Rundle
Director: Aleksi Salmenperä
One day, a woman meets a man. It looks like the love story of the century, until the first crack appears. How, and why, coercive control can be the greatest danger in a relationship?
Production: Solar Republic
Producers: Johanna Tarvainen, Samuli Norhomaa
Writers: Aleksi Aro-Heinilä, Marianna Lehtonen, Jemina Jokisalo
Director: Marja Pyykkö
Ada’s family runs a Christian revival movement. To get her parents’ attention she starts lying that she sees divine revelations. It turns the family’s fortunes around, but the lies lead towards ruin.
Production company: Aamu Film Company
Producer: Jussi Rantamäki
Writer: Eva-Maria Koskinen
Director: Hannaleena Hauru
A 16-year-old boy realizes he is in love with his girlfriend’s 11-year-old sister. 20 years later, she decides to track him down, forcing two families to face, as noted by Eva-Maria Koskinen, the last taboo of our time.
Production: Aurora Studios, Boutique Animation
Producer: Severi Koivusalo
Writers: Pieruperse, Severi Koivusalo and Juhani Ylitalo
In this adult animation, based on the Instagram phenomenon, three dysfunctional men battle their inner demons – around a public swimming pool. Unleashing something the city of Poridise hasn’t seen for decades.
“Queen of Fucking Everything”
Production: Rabbit Films
Producers: Minna Haapkylä, Olli Suominen, Tiina Pesonen
Writer and director: Tiina Lymi
A successful real estate agent is left in debt when her husband disappears. In order to keep up appearances, and her lifestyle, she ends up on the wrong side of the law, running a shady construction business.
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