Arthur Franck, Finland, 2019
Did you know Finland had a president who was in power for a quarter of a century from 1956 to 1982? An autocrat, Kekkonen was liked both by the Soviets and the Americans, so the people didn’t want to shake things up too much. Or have you ever heard of Finland’s most famous hypnotist, Oliver Hawk?
This film uses original footage and recreated scenes to tell the story of Hawk, and how ultimately he alleged he was secretly paid to use his hypnotic powers to help the most powerful stay that way. But the film blurs the line so much between real and imagined, truth and fantasy – and the man himself was so theatrical – I’m not sure what was made up and what not. I really enjoyed it, though!
The Magic Life of V
Tonislav Hristov, Finland, 2019
This young woman is so beautiful in her suffering. Veera takes part in Live Action Role Play (LARP), creating a character for herself to try to escape her traumatic childhood. But she’s sick of needing this false life, and the film shows her struggles to come to terms with what she’s faced: an abusive, alcoholic father, and a brother with brain damage who she loves and worries for, (and a mother who comes across as pathetically absent). Like life, there’s no final resolution. But you get the sense she’ll be able to move on as she gets older. Staged but not scripted (I guess), the film is touching, the mood is thoughtful and quiet, and Veera is strong and brave.
Valentina Pedicini, Italy, 2019
The 15 or 20 people who make up a small community of warrior monks spend their days fitness training, shaving their heads and self-reflecting. Religious sects can often be a bit sinister, the master using his power over his followers for personal gains financially or sexually, but this one seemed fairly wholesome, despite the fondness for German techno – there’s even a nuclear family unit in the group with the most loved and adorable two small children. It’s a cult more in the Shaolin Monk tradition than the Branch Davidians or Manson Family, focused on devoted self-discipline not messianic second comings. A sensitive and absorbing window into how some people choose to live.