Sublime language drama ‘Je’vida’ gets top honors in Finnish cinema issue

The Finnish Film Affair, an annual industry event held parallel to the Helsinki International Film Festival, handed over its first prize Thursday night to “Je’vida,” a historical drama about memory, survival and personal growth from director Katja Gorelov.

“Je’vida” was one of seven works of fiction in progress that was shown to a guest industry audience in Helsinki on September 22, during the Finnish Cinema Issue screening of local and regional projects. The jury noted that the winning film was “a story to be told, with real potential to become globally relatable. The show and cinematography felt so personal, beautiful, and visually stunning.”

Produced by Oktober Oy’s Jonas Bergal, “Je’vida” is the first film to be shot in the Skolt Sámi language. It tells the story of an elderly woman who has abandoned her past under the pressures of assimilation and wind across three different time periods. The film is currently in post-production.

“The film, from a woman’s perspective, is about times in a post-war world where strong assimilation policies have forced many Sami people to feel ashamed of their background and to abandon their language and culture,” Gorelov said in a director’s statement.

“By denying language, society has broken the natural chain of generations and tore apart a people who were already deeply stressed. The traumas I want to deal with through this film have carried over from those days into the modern age.”

The international jury consisted of Tribeca Film Festival programmer Jason Gutierrez, CEO of Curzon Collectibles Eleonora Pesci, and Claire Willats, Director of Film Nordics at Netflix.

The trio also handed out the Best Nordic Project Award, which was chosen from among five feature films in the Nordic Selection category. This award went to “Natatorium,” a dramatic thriller that explores the dark secrets behind family secrets that unfold in a tragedy no one expected.

The film is currently in post-production, directed by Helena Stefans Magnodottir and produced by Sunna Guðnadóttir (Bjartsýn Films), Julia Elomäki (Tekele Productions) and Heather Millard (Silfurskjár). The jury noted: “This is an interesting project that we would like to pursue and explore more. Although it has only just begun shooting, the film already feels like it has a distinctive sound, atmosphere and style that has caught our attention.”

The award for Best Documentary went to “The Final Chapter,” which was chosen from among nine documentaries presented on stage at the historic Bio Rex Cinema in Helsinki. Directed by Mohamed El-Aboudi (School of Hope) and produced by Kirsi Matila (Icebreaker Productions), the film follows three immigrants in Finland who confront the question of where and how they want to spend the last chapters of their lives.

“The project addresses complex and global questions that will become more and more relevant and have not been previously addressed. The jury deeply felt the creative intent of the director and believed that this award could help the project realize its potential,” said the jury, consisting of Pierre-Alexis Chevette, President Cannes Docs at the Marché du Film, Polly at the Cannes Film Festival McAllister, Sales Director at TVF International, and Hot Docs Artistic Director Shane Smith.

Sponsored by the Finnish Film Foundation, Konstsamfundet and AVEK, respectively, each award consists of €3,000 (US$2,950) which will be directed toward the project’s international marketing of fiction and Scandinavian features and the completion of an international trailer for the best documentary project.

Other projects causing a stir this week in Helsinki include the fantasy films “The Worst Idea Ever” by Pamela Tola, “Four Young Children” by Selma Velhonen, and “Dealing with the Living Dead” by Thi Hvistendal, as well as the documentary “Start Me”. Up”, from director Helena Hevarinen.

The eleventh edition of the Finnish Cinema Affair – which concluded with an awards ceremony Thursday night, followed by a traditional Finnish sauna – welcomed nearly 500 guests from more than 20 countries, a third of whom were international guests and buyers.

“Compared to our last non-mixed edition in 2019, we saw a 25% increase in attendance. It really shows the strength and attractiveness of the local industry and our event,” said Maria Birkalainen, Director of Finnish Cinema Affairs.

The 35th Helsinki International Film Festival – Love and Mayhem runs from September 15-25.

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