HFPA members meet the team behind The Fencer, Finland’s submission for the Golden Globe and Oscar foreign film category
A group of HFPA members attended the Helsinki International Film Festival (HIFF) and its industry event, the Finnish Film Affair. Movies like “The Fencer” (Finnish Oscar and Golden Globe entry) and “The Midwife” (Golden Globe submission) a discussion with the filmmakers about human conditions during and after The Second World War.
“ The Fencer,” directed by Klaus Härö and written by Anna Heinämaa, is set during the 1950s and tells the story of an Estonian resister and fencing master, Endel Nelis (Märt Avandi). Suspicion and paranoia are everywhere in Estonia under postwar Soviet occupation. Even at the school where he teaches physical education. The title character is forced to choose between protecting himself or being a mentor to his students.
“The Midwife” takes place a decade before, in 1944, during the Lapland War. Once allies against the Soviet Union, the Finnish Army is now forced to fight the Germans stationed in Lapland. The film follows the love story between a Finnish midwife (Krista Kosonen) and a German officer (Lauri Tilkanen) and is based on author Katja Kettu’s novel. It is directed by Antti J. Jokinen.
After HIFF members visited Ivalo, a village in the municipality of Inari, approximately 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. During the Lapland War Ivalo was severely damaged and burned by retreating German troops. The village was rebuilt and is now a popular winter sport resort with possibilities of downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, as well as husky and reindeer sledge riding.
It is also a home for Sami people, the northernmost indigenous people of Europe, and Skábmagovat, the Indigenous Peoples’ Film Festival. The festival takes place at the end of January, and its main movie theater is made of snow and the sky is the roof. Although the visit took place off season, members were lucky enough to meet Santa Claus at Saariselkä’s Arctic Resort in Kakslauttanen where one of Santa’s ‘homes’ is located. In Finnish culture Father Christmas originates from Korvatunturi, a fell in eastern Lapland in the municipality of Savukoski, but is nowadays said to have many homes all around Lapland.
Earlier in the week the group visited Rovio Entertainment, home of the popular game Angry Birds near Helsinki in the city of Espoo where they were given a sneak peek of the animated “The Angry Birds Movie” which will premiere in 2016.
HFPA president Lorenzo Soria addressed the challenges of movie marketing in today’s economic climate at this year’s Toronto Film Festival. Soria was speaking at the Morning State of the Industry conference which featured an array of movie industry professionals discussing topics such as creative process, film finance, sales, distribution, gender bias, digital frontiers and the future of content. Former HFPA member Mike Goodridge, now CEO of Protagonist Pictures, was also a panelist. – —–Vera Anderson
The HFPA’s annual party in collaboration with InStyle at the Toronto Film Festival reinforced its reputation as the best party in town as a phalanx of stars rubbed shoulders with members and guests in the beautifully decorated ballroom of the Windsor Arms Hotel.
Hundreds of fans defied the rain to line the barricades outside the hotel, greeting the arrivals with screams, shouts and photographs.
Inside, a sumptuous buffet and three busy bars ensured guests were wined and dined in style while photographs of previous HFPA parties and Golden Globe events played continuously on a giant screen.
VERA ANDERSON reports from the Welsh set of the new series
Lee Jones in The Bastard Executioner
What better host could the HFPA have, welcoming them to Wales, than native Welshman Matthew (The
Americans) Rhys, excited to talk about his role in FX’s new historical fictional drama The Bastard
Executioner, currently being filmed locally, and on this evening to share some of his favorite childhood
“My hometown,” he enthused. “I grew up ten minute from here! It’s where I would always come
as a kid, and I think it’s a very unique experience ‐ you can start 2,000 years ago in the Celtic Village, and
then you go all the way up to present day in these original authentic buildings that they have recreated
brick by brick. So I have always recommended this place for people to come, for a taste of a variety of
Where Rhys has brought us is a twenty minute drive from Cardiff, to St. Fagans National History Museum,
an acclaimed open‐air museum where craftsmen demonstrate original skills like shoemaking, weaving
and iron‐works on the park‐like grounds, set amidst authentic, meticulously reproduced buildings from
different historical periods.
Members donned hard hats to tour the construction site of Llys Rhosyr, a re-creation
of a medieval Prince’s Court, then settled in for an appropriately‐themed medieval feast. It was a
great introduction to set the tone for the next day’s visit to some of the sets where the series shoots, as
well as one of the main locations – an entirely movie‐built castle and village.
Show creator Kurt Sutter
Interviews with series creator Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy), executive producer‐director Paris Barclay, and cast members Katey Sagal, Stephen Moyer, Flora Spencer‐Longhurst and Lee Jones revealed more than a few details
about the upcoming episodes (the series will premiere on September 15th) but as for plot points and the
filming we watched, we’re sworn to secrecy.
“This isn’t King Arthur,” says Sutter. “This isn’t about knights on horses; it’s really one man’s
journey. And all the metal and swords and costumes and all the fantastic stuff that is part of the
production, it hopefully will just become a backdrop for what I hope is the interesting stories
of people you come to know and care about and hate.”
He admits that setting the story in the post‐Crusades period of history with only major conflicts well‐documented, gives them free reign to depart
from historical fact. “For the most part, the populous is just not even a full generation out of believing in
witches and goblins and a really thriving pagan ideology. So it is just this really interesting period that
where we are, it’s pre‐ Renaissance and so there’s really not a whole lot of self‐awareness and
enlightenment going on and yet there is this major thrust of religion happening and communities are
being built up, so it’s really this messy time and I was fascinated by that.”
Oscar winning director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and his star Leo DiCaprio joined HFPA members for an early screening of clips from The Revenant, the harsh story of an 1823 fur trapper who seeks revenge on his companions who left him for dead after he was mauled by a grizzly bear.
Inspired by real events it follows DiCaprio’s character through deep snow and graphically depicted ordeals including battles with Native Americans and the near-fatal mauling by a bear.
Inarritu filmed it chronologically over seven months in the snows and bitter cold of Canada, in weather which often sunk to minus 25 degrees, using only natural light, which sometimes meant filming for only two hours a day.
Relaxing outside the Santa Monica screening room, a bearded DiCaprio said: “It was a test of all our endurance. I think we all knew going into it we were embarking on an adventure that would test everything about us—and it absolutely did. The weather was so excruciatingly cold”
Inarritu concedes: “We were in very tough conditions in very unfriendly territories. Everybody was frozen, the equipment was breaking and to get the camera from one place to another was a nightmare.”
The Revenant will be released briefly on Christmas Day in order to qualify for Oscar contention and already it is being tipped to win awards for both the director and star.