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DocPoint 2013: Flickering fragments of reality

Finland’s annual celebration of documentary film, the DocPoint Helsinki Documentary Film Festival, opened with Virpi Suutari’s depiction of marginalized youth, 'Hilton!'.

Kuva Hilton! Täällä ollaan elämä -dokumentista.
Mira from 'Hilton!', the opening film of DocPoint 2013. Image: DocPoint

The festival kicked off on Tuesday evening on a poignant note, as director Virpi Suutari presented her latest feature doc, on which the honour to open Finland’s most important documentary festival was bestowed.

‘Hilton!’ tells the stories of five young people living in an East Helsinki tenement owned by a youth foundation. Many of them with deeply traumatized backgrounds, the protagonists seem unable to move forward with their lives, subsisting on the margins of society in a state of limbo. The oldest of them, reluctant father-figure Make, passed away on the day of the film’s premiere at DocPoint. This added urgency to a film already packed with contemporary relevance, showing as it does the flip-side of a society bent on productivity and efficiency. 

The opening gala also saw the presentation of this year’s Apollo award for outstanding contributions to the documentary film field to editor Tuula Mehtonen. In her acceptance speech, she called for less interference from documentary funders in Finland –- such as Yle, the Finnish Film Foundation and AVEK (Finland’s Promotion Centre for Audiovisual Culture) –- defending the artistic vision of filmmakers and editors.

Visceral selection

Apart from a selection of Finnish documentary classics exhibiting the editing work of Mehtonen and a selection of new Finnish documentary films, the festival programme is segmented into a few other themes. Underground and Higher Ground delve into environmental issues, examining our relation to the earth and the soil that provides us with food and water. A Hard Day’s Night presents a series of films looking into changes to jobs, and the meaning of work in different communities. Der Prozess examines questions of right and wrong, while The Vanishing Point series brings Helsinki audiences avant-garde gems.

The broad current trend in international documentary film to focus on political and social issues, as well as on hard-hitting subjects guaranteed to produce visceral reactions in audiences, is also evident at DocPoint 2013 and the programming of the festival’s current artistic director Erja Dammert.

She was absent from the opening gala – apparently Dammert had strained her back when getting up from her seat after watching thousands of films for the festival selection.

As always, many of the screenings are attended by the filmmakers themselves, promising stimulating Q&A sessions. The festival also brings to Helsinki many international guests and filmmakers. Swedish-resident Polish veteran director Jerzy Sladkowski is this year’s guest of honour. Sladkowski will give a master class to industry professionals, and the festival is also screening a series of his films dating from the 90’s to present day.

DocPoint runs until Sunday 27 January.

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