One of the biggest documentary film festivals in the Nordics, DocPoint, kicked off on Tuesday at Helsinki's Savoy Theatre. The festival brings over 160 films to Helsinki screens. DocPoint 2015 gives special attention to Russia, past and present.
The 14th DocPoint Helsinki Documentary Film Festival opened on Tuesday night with Men of Talvivaara Mine by director Markku Heikkinen. Showing the toll taken on workers of the beleaguered northern Finnish mine as its operations crumble due to environmental disasters, the film balances aesthetic mine scenes with the human stories of its employees.
The old Savoy Theatre on Helsinki's Esplanade hosted the opening, and features as one of the many screening venues in the capital. The Savoy was originally built as a cinema in the late 1930s, but has not been used for this purpose for years. There is a hint of nostalgia also attached to another 2015 venue, as DocPoint returns to the old student union building Vanha Ylioppilastalo, where the festival used to be celebrated in its early years.
International and domestic
Political and social issues films once again dominate the festival catalogue. Much of the programme consists of international docs picked from festivals across the world, and DocPoint 2015 is also hosting nearly 50 international guests. Yet at the core of the festival is the selection of New Finnish Documentaries, which this year mainly focus on domestic issues - perhaps in response to tougher economic times, where decreased film funding allows less flights of fancy abroad.
While DocPoint has never gone in for a film competition, this year’s programme includes The Critic’s Choice, where American film critic John Anderson – writing film reviews for publications like Variety, New York Times and Washington Post – chooses three of his favourite new Finnish documentaries.
Apollo Award to Nikkilä
As noted by the festival’s Artistic Director Ulla Simonen, one current theme rises above others in DocPoint 2015: Russia. Reflecting this, the Apollo lifetime achievement award will be handed on Wednesday evening to Reijo Nikkilä for his work on Russian events from Stalin's times to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nikkilä, who for years produced Russian-related television programmes for Yle, has programmed a series of Russian-themed films for DocPoint, many of them his own.
"I think nowadays the young cinemagoers, those watching films at DocPoint, they don't know very much about Stalinism. They know quite a lot about Russia today. But if my generation got enough information about 20-25 years ago, so for those young people, it’s very important to screen these films,” Nikkilä says, continuing: “This is very relevant today, because there is a threat… that the process will go back to those times that we are seeing in these films.”
DocPoint runs until Sunday 2 December, with shows this year also organised in other major Finnish towns including Vantaa, Turku, Tampere, Oulu and Jyväskylä. An Estonian sister festival, DocPoint Tallinn, also begins on Wednesday.
DocPoint 2015: films on home and our neighbour