Finland’s Kaiho Republic and Chile’s Parox unique trans-Atlantic co-production “Invisible Heroes” will screen at Cannes’ MipTV, with Eccho Rights handling international sales in the event’s market.
“Invisible Heroes” tracks the remarkable work done by fresh off the boat Finnish diplomat Tapani Brotherus who risked his career, his freedom and his life to covertly help secure asylum in Europe for more than 2,000 Chilean citizens whose lives were under threat during the brutal 1973 coup headed by general and future dictator Augusto Pinochet. The series was penned by the playwrights Tarja Kylmä from Finland and Manuela Infante Guell from Chile.
The series features stunning recreations of sites which no longer exist from a time that most Chileans can no longer remember, but all still feel the consequences of.
In addition to astonishing VFX scenes at the national stadium, Santiago airports and of era-appropriate bombers flying overhead, the production was the first ever to shoot in Diego Portales, the headquarters of Pinochet and his government.
The series was commissioned by Finnish public broadcast network YLE, in association with Chilevision, and will premiere on YLE on April 21 with other Nordic public broadcasters – SVT, NRK, DR and RUV – following shortly after. The Chilevision premiere is planned for late 2019.
Variety talked with Parox Film’s Leonora González, Kaiho Republic’s Liisa Penttilä-Asikainen and director Mika Kurvinen during MipTV.
Finland-Chile is not a partnership that many expect in high-end TV drama, but considering the nature of the series’ narrative it makes sense. Was it always your intention that each country be represented in the co-production scheme?
Penttilä-Asikainen: Yes, the real-life events made this an organic co-production. We wanted to make sure that the story would open up the dramatic events from sides, the Chilean people and the Finns, that were trying to survive during the coup in 1973.
How did it work out logistically? Were there any unexpected challenges, difficulties or even benefits?
González: One of the main difficulties was that the story is spoken in five languages. The Finnish actors had to learn their lines in Spanish and that was a great challenge. Also, a 20-hour plane ride is neither simple nor cheap, and many actors from Sweden and Germany had to come to film in Chile.
What did each country bring to the production?
Penttilä-Asikainen: The co-production was very solid. We had two scriptwriters and directors, one from each country. This way the artistic collaboration could create its own unique world for the series.
González: In Chile, we have great actors, and in the series that can really be appreciated. Even in small roles they make history shine. The Finnish actors were great, and were easily able to find a common tone. I also feel that the Finns contributed very clear and precise methods of approaching filming. They immediately know what they are looking for and where the most dramatic part of a scene is.
What sources did the writer’s rely on to do their job?
González: The writers leaned on the book “La Ruta Finlandesa” by the historian Heikki Hiilamo. They also used a biography written by Luis Guastanivo and Ismael Huerta and many documentaries about that time.
The series visuals are stunning. How did you re-create Santiago during the time of Pinochet? And what responsibility did you have in doing so?
Kurvinen: Even though it was important to re-create the actual events as accurately as possible, the main focus was on the characters. To see what was real effect was to the Chilean and foreign people and their lives. We want to create the feeling as real as possible without even noticing the period production design.
González: It was not easy to recreate the scenes. First of all, Santiago is a very different city today, which required great effort in searching for important locations. We also had to do a lot of graphic research, and then use of special effects to recreate the National Stadium, the Santiago Airport, the scenes of the Hawker Hunter planes that bombed La Moneda, the tanks, etc. Every image, every character construction and their costumes, involved extensive research.