Johanna Eskelinen, translation
In the world of cinema less is more – at least when it comes to length. And shorter is louder, too. When making films whose budget is as big as the annual budget of a medium-sized town, the bucks invested in the film must come back too, and at a proper profit if possible.
A feature film can hardly ever convey a strong message, since there is a risk of too much attitude driving the mainstream audience away. Some generally accepted serious subjects exist, such as poverty or drug traffic, which can be discussed in films. However, many important issues are not commented at all.
Unlike feature films, low budget films can discuss whatever topics they want and speak out on the matters of our society. Neither do low budget films have to worry about the reactions of the audience nor them walking out of the cinema. Provoking can even be intentional.
Since last week, Katariina Lillqvist’s film Uralin perhonen (”The Butterfly of Ural”) has been the topic of many raging debates in Finland. This film has shown, how influential a short film can be. Uralin perhonen criticises a figure, who is generally respected and considered even sacrosanct in Finland: Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, a Finnish military commander and a politician (1867–1951). When a national icon like him is discussed through art, everybody has an opinion.
Without commenting on the film itself, it must be said that Uralin perhonen has certainly become a cause célèbre. The high and mighty of Finland, from generals to MPs, have all expressed their views on a puppet with a horse’s tail, the controversial character appearing in this film. That’s right, a puppet.
The director herself has seen the discussion on the film as an attempt to limit the freedom of speech. The organisers of the film festival probably have not even contemplated cancelling the screening of Uralin perhonen, and neither has the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, which will later present the film. But the fuss, for and against, has been remarkable.
The traumas caused by our nation’s history are now being processed through art and fiction. Uralin perhonen along with Kristian Smeds’s play Tuntematon sotilas (”The Unknown Soldier”) have been the biggest fusses in living memory. However, they both mainly concern the older generations, who have personally experienced the Finnish wars or their aftermath.
By means of short film Tampere Film Festival now has a great opportunity to bring up many important issues, other than wars fought sixty years ago.
Updated 14 March 2008 9:11