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Finnish American Heritage Center to host pop-up film festival

April 2, 2018

Ever since he visited his relatives in the Copper Country last spring, screenwriter and Tornio, Finland native Mikko Myllylahti has been eager to come back to the area to show the award-winning film he wrote. On Thursday, April 12, at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., he’ll accomplish this mission.

Myllylahti will be at Finlandia University’s Finnish American Heritage Center for the Nordic Film Series screening of “The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki,” for which he wrote the screenplay.

The film is the true story of one Olli Mäki, the famous Finnish boxer who had a shot at the 1962 World Featherweight title. Immensely talented and equally modest, Olli’s small-town life is transformed when he is swept into national stardom and suddenly regarded as a symbol of his country.

There’s only one problem: Olli is falling in love.

The film was Myllylahti’s debut as a screenwriter and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016 where it won the Un Certain Regard Prize; it has also been honored at film festivals in Zurich and Chicago, and was Finland’s entry for the Academy Awards.

The 1-1/2 hour film is in Finnish with English subtitles.

This showing concludes the Nordic Film Series for the 2017-2018 season, and is the finale of a multi-day visit to the Copper Country by not only Myllylahti, but two other up-and-coming filmmakers, who are coming to the area to begin research on a special assignment.

Jenni Toivoniemi and Ulla Heikkilä are traveling with Myllylahti to the Hancock area to start digging into the area’s storied past – one era in particular.

“We are writing a historical drama TV series set in the Copper Country in 1913-14,” Heikkilä said. “We have been developing the project for two years now. Though the project is still in a very early stage, the Finnish National Broadcasting Company is involved.”

This visit has locals like Rev. Robert Langseth, a proponent of remembering the Italian Hall disaster, eager to share insights and information regarding the Copper?Country’s saddest chapter.

“What a treasure to have on record these truths about the Copper Country and the Finnish impact on the society,” he said. “That era is one that we need young people to become acquainted with.”

Professor Larry Lankton of Michigan Tech University,  a longtime historian focused on copper mining, agreed.

“It’ll be nice to see the strike era interpreted by Finns from Finland, as opposed to the Finns who were over here during the strike,” he said. “This will be a new side to the story.

“I hope this area receives these people with enthusiasm.”

Toivoniemi and Heikkilä will be at the Finnish American Heritage Center on Wednesday, April 11 at 3 p.m. to share examples of their filmmaking skill. They’ll show their short films “The Committee” and “Miten sanoa hyvästit” (How to Say Goodbye)  and engage the audience in a discussion about their work and its upcoming connections to Copper Country history.

“The Committee,” a 2016 film that was written and directed by Toivoniemi, is a 14-minute production that has screened at numerous film festivals, winning the honor for Best Short Film at the Bergen International Film Festival.

In it, delegates from Sweden, Norway and Finland are gathered in Lapland to decide on an art piece, which is to be placed where the three borders meet geographically. But the committee is in for a surprise.

Heikkilä’s film “Miten sanoa hyvästit” (How to Say Goodbye) is a 10-minute feature that she produced in 2013 when she was a student.

There is no admission fee for either of these special events; donations are appreciated. For further information about this special event, call (906) 487-7302.

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