Berlin Film Festival Berlinale

WWII-set romance based bestseller ‘The Midwife’

Popular Finnish helmer Antti Jokinen (“Resident,” “Purge”) is to direct “Helena,” a romance-drama set during WWII in Finland’s Lapland province, a major European battle ground of the war.

“Helena” will topline rising star Krista Kosonen, whose first English-language film “Big Significant Things” will open SXSW, and Lauri Tilkanen.

Based on Katja Kettu’s bestselling novel “The Midwife” (“Katilo”) “Helena” turns on the love affair between a Lapp midwife and a Nazi SS officer set against the backdrop of the Lapland War, which opposed Finnish and Germany armies in 1944-45.

“I’m from Finland and know how the war and our camaraderie with the Nazi Germany have remained a complete taboo to this day. Finland was a German ally in WWII but made a separate peace agreement with the Soviets in August 1944,” Jokinen told Variety.

Markus Selin, Jukka Helle, Jesse Fryckman are producing via leading Finnish shingle Solar Films, and are attending the EFM to look for partners to gap the financing and lock a sales company. Pic is being backed by the Nordisk Film & TV Fond and national broadcaster YLE.

“The themes in ‘The Midwife’ are international. It’s about conquering love and war, and class boundaries that are broken down,” said Jokinen, adding that the film will give a voice to “ordinary people in the midst of war.”

One of the key location of the film is a German prison camp in Titovka.

Jokinen said he collected huge amounts of data about the history of Lapland, wading through the National Archives, talking to historians and archaeologists, and using a dialect expert like the writer Kettu to proofread his script and dialogue.

Helmer will next tackle “The Criminal,” a thriller set in the Russian mafia world. “It’s a inspired by true events and has the backbone of a crime-thriller, but naturally heavy drama as well,” said Jokinen.

Keanu Reeves has read the script, but hasn’t yet been locked. “We are still in the process of getting the money together,” explained Jokinen, whose credits include “Resident” with Hilary Swank and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and “Purge,” the critically acclaimed period drama that repped Finland in the Oscar foreign-language race last year.

“Helena” will start shooting in May in Lithuania.

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