Friday, November 23, 2012

Kummisetäni thaimorsian / My Godfather, His Thai Bride and Me

Min gudfar, hans thaibrud och jag. FI 2012 Pohjola-Filmi. P: Elina Pohjola. D+SC: Wille Hyvönen. Dramaturgy: John Webster. DP: Jarmo Kiuru - camera: Canon EOS 5D mkII, 1080p - lenses: Nikkor zoom 35-70 mm F3.5, Zenit 50 mm F1.8 - filters: Low contrast 1, Black promist ⅛ - colour correction: Pasi Mäkelä (James Post), online master: Petteri Linnus (James Post). Graphic design: Atte Karttunen. M supervisor: Pete Eklund (Moshfish). Score: Finnish iskelmä oldies compilation. Theme song: "Valssi menneiltä ajoilta" (Iosif Ivanovici) perf. 1) Viljo Vesterinen & Lasse Pihlajamaa, 2) Olavi Virta, 3) Erkki Junkkarinen. "Afroditen poika" (Juice Leskinen). "Ikkunasi alla" (W. Stone / Kullervo) perf. Henry Theel. "Satumaa" (Unto Mononen) perf. Henry Theel. S: Pekka Aikio. ED: Matti Näränen. Featuring: Seppo Tossavainen, Pin = Yuphin Chuamram, Wille Hyvönen, Kwe Chuamram, Heidi Tossavainen, Niko Tossavainen, Siiri Raasakka. Loc: Varkaus (Finland), Buriram (Thailand). Original in Finnish with some English and Thai. 60 min. Distributed by Pirkanmaan Elokuvakeskus with Swedish subtitles and some Finnish subtitles by Tiina Kinnunen / Maria Wiren-Malo. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 10, Helsinki, 23 Nov 2012.

A MA diploma work of the director, the producer, the cinematographer, the editor and the sound designer at the Aalto University / The School of Arts, Design and Architecture / Department of Film, Television and Scenography.

Official synopsis: "Wille has a problem. His godfather, a butcher from the province of Savo, is in love with the Thai woman Pin. How can there be real love between a Western man and a Thai woman? It must be paid love, sugar-coated prostitution. A middle-aged man wants sex and subjects a young woman under his will; the Thai woman wants a secure income."

"This matter has bothered Wille and his relationship with his godfather ever since Seppo's previous female Thai friend. That woman did not love Seppo but his money."

"Wille reveals his suspicions to his godfather. Seppo wants to show Wille how things really are and invites him to join him for a month to Buriram, Thailand."

"Wille embarks on the journey, follows the pair incessantly and pesters them daily with questions and tests of love, each one crazier than the other. Is the love real?"

A word from the director: "When Seppo, my godfather, my uncle, my dearest relative, told me about his intention to marry his Thai girlfriend, I certainly did not believe that it was true love. I was absolutely certain that this could not be anything else but mutual deception, sugared prostitution. I saw in the relationship only my own prejudices: economical, cultural and social inequality. I was ashamed that one of the chauvinists oppressing women was my godfather. I needed to make him see what he was doing."

"Simultaneously I was affected by the fact that one of the people closest to me was in love from the bottom of his heart, but I could not approve of his love. I was affected by my own prejudice. I preach tolerance and swear by multi-culturalism, but I was being unconditionally prejudiced towards one group of people, Thai women. I did not want to tolerate intolerance - especially in myself. Simultaneously I knew, however, that Seppo, battered by life, could not stand a further single disappointment in his love life."

"In order to find a peace of mind I needed to find out about their love and its truthfulness. Seppo's objections were mere words for me. I needed to see with my own eyes what it was all about and give the floor to the couple."

From the production information: "Wille Hyvönen (born 1987) has graduated as a Master of Arts at the Aalto University / The School of Arts, Design and Architecture / Department of Film, Television and Scenography. For some ten years he has worked with moving images, short films, and music videos. He has directed music videos for Olavi Uusivirta, Signmark, Korpiklaani, and many other Finnish artists. Kummisetäni thaimorsian is his debut documentary feature. Hyvönen says out loud things we all think but don't open our mouth." (The translations are mine.)

Frankly, I was embarrassed by the whole concept of making a documentary like this, prying into people's private lives in such an obtrusive and offensive way.

The trend of intimate, confessional, and private documentaries and filmed diaries started in the 1950s, often in experimental contexts.

During the last 20 years reality television has changed terms and expectations in non-fiction. The Real World started at MTV, itself inspired by An American Family. People are now so used to the possibility that anything can be filmed that there are few taboos left.

Sixty years ago Edgar Morin wrote about film stars that "their private life is public". In the era of reality television anybody's private life can become public. The question is: can such a life be called private anymore?

I don't trust much in the reality of reality television or intimate non-fiction feature films. As a sociologist I am aware of the observer effect. In a sociological experiment it means that the fact of the research changes reality. 

In these movies nobody is unaware that filming taking place. It is no longer authentic private life but a representation of private life which may be very close to the true circumstances.

The first part of the movie is a provocation by Wille to expose Seppo and Pin. Slowly Wille starts to give in. He sees that Seppo has become a respected member of Pin's village. Pin and Seppo have both been disappointed in their previous relationships, but now they have found each other. In the conclusion we visit Seppo and Pin's wedding, and Wille gives an emotional speech where he asks for forgiveness, confesses that he has made a 180 degree turn in his views and wishes good luck to the married couple. At his Finnish home by the lake Seppo introduces the whooper swans to Pin. Those swans are loyal to their homes and stay together for life. 

Visual quality: low definition video look.

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