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Finnish film director accused of subjugating, humiliating actors

Several prominent Finnish actors have come forward to accuse award-winning director Aku Louhimies of questionable directing techniques in earlier productions. His remake of "The Unknown Soldier" last year broke box office records.

Ohjaaja Aku Louhimies Tuntematon sotilas -elokuvan erikoisnäytöksessä Helsingissä 15. helmikuuta 2018.
Aku Louhimies Image: Emmi Korhonen / Lehtikuva

Inspired by the worldwide #Metoo movement, the Finnish actors Pamela Tola, Matleena Kuusniemi, Pihla Viitala, Jessica Grabowsky and others have gone public with their experiences under the directorship of Aku Louhimies in his earlier productions.

Louhimies directed the latest version of the Finnish classic war tale "The Unknown Soldier" in honour of Finland's 100 years of independence. The film became Finland's most popular movie in history last year, after over one million tickets were sold.

The actors say they have had enough of Louhimies' humiliating and sometimes sadistic behaviour, which they claim is largely targeted at women. They each have stories of violence and degradation, with one saying that the director put cockroaches under her clothing for a prison scene, in order to make her feel uncomfortable.

Each of the actors that has come forward has refused to work with the director again.

Many male actors and members of the film crew have corroborated the stories. Louhimies denies many of the accusations.

Multiple awards in TV and film

Louhimies, 49, has won many Jussi awards - Finland's version of the Oscar - as well as several Venla television awards and state prizes. Last year, the President of Finland granted Louhimies the Pro Finlandia medal of distinction on Finnish Independence Day. He has made nine feature-length films and several short films, documentaries, music videos and commercials.

He responded to the accusations on Monday in a Facebook post.

"It feels shocking that so many people that I have collaborated with have experienced it as insulting," he writes. "I reject discrimination and bullying of all kinds. Inequality will only be stamped out when distorted power structures become visible. That is why I appreciate this discussion, even if it does seem unreasonably hard-handed to me."

EDIT 29.5.2018 This story was edited to clarify that the experiences referred to in this story concern earlier Louhimies productions, not The Unknown Soldier, and corrected the number of feature-length films Louhimies has directed.

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