“Pekka has been taken to a hospital and can’t do the festival. Can you help?”
This piece of news hit me on the eve of moving to China, in the midst of prepping Iron Sky: The Ark and overlooking the edit of Iron Sky The Coming Race. The person in question is Pekka Ollula, a dear friend and colleague of mine, who fell suddenly ill and had to be hospitalized. He had been planning a film festival for his home town for several years, and on the eve of the event, an ambulance whisked him away and left us standing there with bare bones of planning in our hands. I was already going through a hectic mess of things, and suddenly, I need to jump onboard a full-fletched film festival which was way, way under construction and about to take place in… uh… two days.
Very little was known about the program, or what was promised to where, or who was supposed to do what. All we knew that there was a film festival supposed to take place in Huhtamo, a small village in Huittinen, another small place some two hours away from Helsinki, in the middle of absolute nowhere. We had to Sherlock our way through the existing plans, what had been agreed and what hadn’t, and get everything in shape – in two days.
I had already signed off of the production of the film festival a few days before since the chaos around it was just too much for me to handle amidst everything else, and suggested we just cancel the whole event, but luckily there were people with more time, experience in organization and willingness around to finish Pekka’s vision of a countryside film festival. In the end, my participation turned out to be pretty minimal, serving as the face of the festival due to my feeble status of minor celebrity in Finland and opening the films over the week’s end. The rest of the work was done by a group of devoted people, relatives and friends of Pekka who knew a thing or two about organizing a festival.
In the end , it all worked out well. The festival – called Huhtamo International Film Festival (although there wasn’t too much “international” in it, but hey, maybe next year) – turned out to be a huge local success. It probably didn’t do a major splash in the big picture of film festivals, but locally it was received very well by the people and there were visitors from all over the area. And remember, every festival has to start from somewhere! I enjoyed my time there, basking in the sun of the first real summer week in Finland this year, watching films and getting to know local nightlife.
Some of the great visions by Pekka that came through was the Passion of Joan of Arc, a black-and-white silent film from late 20’s, to which two musicians had composed a soundtrack of electronic music, which they also performed live at a small countryside church, which served as the cinema in Huhtamo for the first two days. The soundtrack consisted of strange, electronic, atmospheric soundscapes visited by hectic beat every now and then and then waning back into the background. When Joan was executed the church bells were ringing, and the effect and the milieau was just beyond amazing. The local farmers, who most likely had never head music like that, nor would’ve never spent two hours watching a film like that, staggered out of the theatre to the bright sunlight outside, impressed to the bone.
Being a pig county, the food was naturally pig. There was pea soup with pig, there were crickets with pig, there was vegetable soup with pig and even tofu with pig, but pig was the ever-present ingredient. And what a pig it was! Every day they hauled in a new, whole smoked pig, and a local meat cutter served it through the day.
My greatest gratitude goes to everyone who joined in saving the festival and making it a great experience, one of the top ones of the year by far, and I sincerely hope there’s a new, bigger and even more organized next year coming up.
Returning back home after four days of festivities, I was practically sleepwalking through the following days. The date of me moving to China was nearing, but before that, I have to visit Belgium, to finish off the edit of Iron Sky The Coming Race. I said long, sad goodbyes to my son who strongly opposed me running away for nearly half a year, and since he has only a small window to visit me in China, we won’t be seeing each other in a way too long time. The distance is killing me. Maybe one day I’ll find a way to find my roots and stay in one place for a while, but right now is unfortunately not the time. I understand far better why people move to Hollywood, or to Beijing; it’s not the work opportunities, but the fact that they want to stay close to their family.
Very human of us.