To Go Against the Stream

By Freja DamToronto International Film Festival

Finnish director Pirjo Honkasalo's Concrete Night is a tough coming-of-age-drama about a 14-year-old boy tagging along for the last 24 hours before his older brother has to go to prison. To the film's Danish co-producer, Lise Lense-Møller of Magic Hour Films, taking part in this kind of film is extremely important.

Q: How did your partnership with Pirjo Honkasalo and Bufo Film come about?

I had worked with Pirjo Honkasalo before: Magic Hour Films co-produced her documentary The 3 Rooms of Melancholia in 2004, and we worked really well together. The Danish editor Niels Pagh Andersen cut the film and Pirjo was so happy with his work that he was her first choice to edit Concrete Night. There was nothing co-production-strategic about it.

I knew Misha Jaari and Mark Lwoff, the producers from Bufo Film of Finland, through EAVE (European Producers Workshop, ed.), where I teach. Plus, Bufo Film shares a space with Mouka Film, which I had worked with on films like Into Eternity and The Visit. So we are part of the same creative scene.

Q: What was it about Concrete Night that got you into that specific project?

Pirjo Honkasalo is a unique picture-maker. For years now, cinema has been focusing on storytelling and dramaturgy and less on telling a story in images. Pirjo does that better than almost anyone, and I think it’s important to uphold picture-making as a part of cinema. I think Pirjo is extremely skilled and I want to help realise her film. Also, it’s personally satisfying and helps me grow professionally to take part in producing the kind of films that insist on going against the stream.

Q: It does not have the makings of a blockbuster?

Hardly. The 3 Rooms of Melancholia wasn’t a blockbuster, either, because it’s a difficult film. But it’s also a film that an amazing amount of people refer to. It has impacted its audience and made a mark.

It’s important that a wide array of films is produced that can influence each other and keep cinema moving. For that to happen, we need these very special films that have something to say artistically and are very insistent about it. That insistence is more important than a film becoming a hit.

Q: Magic Hour Films has co-produced quite a bit with Finland …

Yes that’s true, and we are very pleased with it. The Finnish approach to the projects, artistically, creatively and work-wise, dovetails with ours.

Finland is a very interesting film nation and has produced a lot of exciting directors. It is especially remarkable in the field of documentaries. The national broadcaster YLE has insisted on challenging its viewers in a way that has been unique in Europe. By insisting on showing and producing documentaries that normally would not be aired on primetime TV, they have managed to hold on to their audience.

Concrete Night is selected for the Toronto International Film Festival.

Photo: Bufo Film

Concrete Night

Simo, 14, his older brother Ilkka and their rather incapable single mother share a cramped home  deep in the heart of a suburbian concrete jungle.  Ilkka has a few days of freedom left before serving a prison sentence. Simo spends the last 24 hours with him, and during a sweltering hot summer day and night in Helsinki, the brothers witness incidents they would have preferred to be without. For Simo, who sees everything unfiltered, these unbearable experiences cut deep into his unprotected mind. The cuts become scars, the scars become fear, and fear turns into violence. Concrete Night is selected for the Toronto International Film Festival.

Pirjo Honkasalo, director of Concrete Night

Director, cinematographer and screenwriter. Born 1947, Finland. Director of feature documentaries such as Mysterion (1991), Tanjuska and the 7 Devils (1993) and Atman (1996). In 2004 came The 3 Rooms of Melancholia, her widely praised film about how Russian and Chechen children were psychologically affected by the war. With Concrete Night Honkasalo is back to making fiction, as she did at the beginning of her career.

What’s the Danish angle?

Concrete Night is a Finnish-Swedish-Danish co-production between Bufo Film of Finland, Plattform Produktion of Sweden and Magic Hour Films of Denmark. Lise Lense-Møller is the Danish co-producer. The editor is Niels Pagh Andersen. All the post-production of the sound was done in Denmark, including the mixing performed by Niels Arild, and Dicentia Studios did the mastering of the film.

The film received minor co-production support from the Danish Film Institute.

Magic Hour Films

Founded in 1984 (as Lise Lense-Møller Film) by producer Lise Lense-Møller. The regular staff also consists of Cecilia Valsted and Lars Brask Frederiksen.

Magic Hour Films produces and co-produces both documentaries and fiction films. The company is behind the widely acclaimed documentaries Burma VJ – Reporting from a Closed Country (Anders Østergaard, 2008) and Into Eternity (Michael Madsen, 2010). Recent releases include My Afghanistan – Life in the Forbidden Zone (Nagieb Khaja, 2012), The War Campaign (Boris Bertram, 2013), and Four Letters Apart – Children in the Age of ADHD (Erlend E. Mo, 2013).

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