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Finnish Film Week Names Top Producer, Director Of The Year

Riina Hyytia, producer of "21 Ways To Ruin A Marriage," and Simo Halinen, helmer of "Open Up To Me," are two of the Finnish Film Week's award winners

HELSINKI– Riina Hyytia and Simo Halinen won producer and director of the year awards, respectively, at the 4th Finnish Film Week, the industry event which ran alongside Helsinki Intl. Film Festival and wrapped on Thursday.

Hyytia last produced Johanna Vuoksenmaa’s satirical comedy  “21 Ways to Ruin a Marriage,” a local B.O. hit. Halinen last helmed daring psychological drama “Open Up to Me.”

The week-long festival screened 24 local films, including Toronto-preming “Heart of a Lion,” by Dome Karukoski and Finland’s Oscar entry, “The Disciple” by Ulrika Bengts. The event attracted 4000 festgoers, over 40% up on last year. 

The Finnish Film Week also named Jenni Toivoniemi screenwriter of the year for her script of “The Date,” and Laura Birn and Liisi Tandefelt for their performance in “Purge.”

The Helsinki fest also hosted the second edition of The Finnish Film Affair, a professional showcase of Finnish titles, comprising completed films, as wellas projects in development and in post.

The Finnish Film Affair highlights included Aleksi Bardy-produced “They Have Escaped,” Amir Escandari’s docu “Wind Catchers,” Inari Niemi’s “Summertime” and Aku Louhimies’s “Whiteout.”

“Whiteout,” Aku Louhimies’ follow-up to critically-acclaimed “8-Ball,” is a Greenland-based action-adventure drama turning on the true story of the lone survivor of an artic expedition. Matti Halonen at Fisher King Prod. and Jouni Mutanen at Kongo Media are producing.

Louhimies, who was recently signed by Martin Spencer at Resolution, told Variety “Whiteout” will lense in English-language and will topline a U.S. thesp.

“I look forward to making my English-language debut to access the great U.S. talent pool and reach a wider audience,” said Louhimies, adding that the film could be set up as a co-production with either the U.K., Denmark, Canada or Germany.

A tender friendship dramedy, “Summertime” revolves around four 20-something girlfriends who travel to Hanko, a popular Finnish seaside resort, to work at a cafe and take a break from boysWhile a series of events – from romances to break-ups and disillusions — shake up their plans, the young women stick together.

“It’s truly a modern comedy about these four fun-seeking, yet wholesome girls in their mid-20’s who are at a turning point in their lives,” said producer Jesse Fryckman at Bronson Club. “We tried to capture what it’s like to be 25 years old today and we avoided the stereotypes: while they openly talk about sex, drink and party, they’re very loyal to each other and we empathize with them.”

One of Finland’s most ambitious and successful producers, Fryckman recently launched with Andrew D. Corkin of New-York-based Uncorked Prods the label From Start To Finnish to produce English-language films helmed by top local directors, notably Antti-Jussi Annila, Louhimies and Karukoski. The banner’s first project is Annila’s “What We Were” the prequel to Jim Mickle’s cannibal thriller “We Are What We Are.”

“Summertime” just finished lensing. Nordisk Film will release it across Scandinavia and Fryckman is now looking for a sales agent.

“Wind Catchers,” produced by Miia Haavisto at Helsinki-filmi, centers on the journey of four young men who live on the outskirts of Sao Paolo and are part of the Crypta gang, which is all about pixacao, a unique form of street art. Their lives shift when they get invited to present their work at the Berlin Biennale for contemporary art. The doc is in post and will be released domestically in December. Haavisto is searching for a sales company.

Repped by The Yellow Affair, “Escaped” is directed by Jukka-Pekka Valkeapaa and turns on a pair of lovers who embark on a road trip and live on the margins of society.

Pic is in post and will be released in Fall 2014. Aleksi Bardy at Helsinki-filmi is producing.

Other buzzed-about local films presented at the Finnish Film Affair included Samuli Valkama’s dramedy “No Thank You,” Petri Kotwica’s drama “Cross Your Heart,” toonpic “Moomins On The Riviera,” which is repped by Paris-based Indie Sales, and Akseli Tuomivaara’s basketball-themed coming-of-age drama “Korso.”

The three-day event gathered programmers from Tribeca, Palm Springs, Rotterdam, Locarno and Saint-Petersbourg fests; as well as about 25 sales reps, from Fortissimo, Wild Bunch, The Yellow Affair, Selective Films, TrustNordisk, Smile Ent., Hanway Films, LevelK and Reel Suspects, among others. 

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