Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Takaisin pintaan / Diving Into the Unknown

Juan Reina | Finland 2016 | Documentary | 82 min
P: Monami Agency / Juho Harjula, Fuglene / Therese Naustdal, Fuglene / Gudmundur Gunnarsson. D+SC: Juan Reina. Cinematography: Tuukka Kovasiipi, Jarkko Virtanen. S: Håkon Lammetun. ED: Riitta Poikselkä, Juan Reina. M: Kaada. Feat: Sami Paakkarinen, Patrik Grönqvist, Kai Känkänen, Vesa Rantanen.
    Contact: Monami Agency / Juho Harjula,
    Tampere Film Festival, National Competition 2
    Introduced by Juho Harjula and Jarkko Virtanen.
    9.3.2016 Wed 22:00 | Plevna 2 | English title graphics and subtitles

TFF introduction: "Diving into the Unknown tells the story of four Finnish divers, who risk their lives to bring the bodies of their lost friends home. The Finnish cave divers’ worst nightmare becomes a reality, when two of the group members drown deep inside an underwater cave in Norway. After the official retrieval operation is called off by Norwegian and British authorities, the friends set off on a secret mission to try to retrieve the bodies themselves. Diving into the Unknown is more than just the extreme story of a secret operation. It is also a profound story of the groups’ unconditional friendship. This is a unique group of specialists who have to rely on each other every split second of the dive. While each of them has spent years exploring deep and dangerous caves, together they are all about to face the biggest challenge of their lives. The physical demands of this deep-water dive are nothing compared to the psychological toll it will take on everyone involved. With multiple cameras both on and under the surface, this film follows the breathtaking recovery mission as the team risks their own lives to bring their friends back home."

AA: The story of the diving calamity in Plurdalen, Norway, on 6 February 2014 when two Finnish divers drowned at the bottom of a long cave in winter. Three barely survived. After the officials failed there was a clandestine rescue mission by the team to bring the two drowned ones back home.

In the introduction to the screening we learned about the background to all this. This was from the start a film project which started in 2010. The top expert diving team had been diving in underwater caves under Budapest. Their actual goal was the world's longest cave dive in Spain - 11 kilometers. "No one knows where the cave ends". The Plurdalen dive was not considered to be exceptionally hard - it was a case of practice for diving in Spain.

The project was technically very demanding. There were two filming teams. The cave was cramped and dirty. Every two hours they had to clean their stuff. It was dangerous, but the camera gave a distance to the subject. It was necessary to concentrate on every step.

This is Hawksian material, a story of a dedicated elite group, the best in their act, who focus laconically on their mission. Their survival depends on full trust on each other's contribution.

While the material is excellent, there is tension lacking in the structure, especially towards the end, and the music feels slightly generic.

This is also an exciting entry in the great tradition of Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Cousteau took us to depths that had never been filmed before. So does this team. This is a mission of transcending one's limits. The zeal involved may be hard for outsiders to understand.

The imagery is mostly based on powerful claustrophobic footage shot in narrow underwater caves in water near the freezing point. On the other hand, there is footage on the camaraderie of the team. And there are sublime, magnificent aerial views in Norwegian Lapland, incidentally, not far from Mo i Rana, home of the vaults of the Norwegian film archive.

There are also illuminative map graphics of the long and dangerous underwater cave where we can follow the course of the diving and rescue missions.

The finale takes place in Pozo Azul, Spain. The team does not give up.



Four Finnish cave divers face their worst nightmare when two of their friends drown deep inside an underwater cave in Norway. When the official recovery operation is called off by the Norwegian and British authorities after being deemed too risky, the friends set out on a secret mission to retrieve the bodies themselves.

Diving into the Unknown isn’t just the dramatic story of a life-threatening mission. It is also a story about unconditional friendship that truly runs deep. While each member of the team has years of experience exploring dangerous deep-sea caves, together they are about to face the biggest challenge of their lives. To make it out alive, they will need to be able to rely on each other every second of the way. And the physical demands of this operation will pale in comparison to the psychological toll it will take on everyone involved.

With footage from the actual accident (shot before production began) and multiple cameras both above water and deep below the surface, this film follows the breathtaking recovery mission from beginning to end.

Diving into the Unknown (85 min, 2016)

Operation Plura

On 6 February 2014, a terrible accident happens 130 m. below the surface in a deep underwater cave in Plurdalen, Norway. Two divers drown and three miraculously survive.

The official mission to retrieve the bodies is aborted after being deemed too dangerous by the Norwegian and British authorities. The Norwegian police close the entrance to the cave indefinitely. Determined to bring the bodies of their friends home, the three survivors, Patrik, Kai and Vesa, with the help of another diver, Sami, put together their own team and begin planning a secret recovery mission.

The entire team consists of 14 Finns and 11 Norwegians, and each team member has an important role to play. The Finnish team mainly includes people who actually knew the victims. To avoid being discovered by the authorities, they team splits up and makes the 1000 km journey from Finland to Norway at different times.

The Location

The Plura cave system is located in Northern Norway, approximately 50 km from the town of Mo i Rana. The cave has two entrances: the Plura lakeside and the Steinugleflåget dry cave. The entire cave system is approximately 2 km long and 130 m deep, with large sharp rocks and extremely narrow passages. The water in the cave is ice-cold at between 2 and 4 degrees celsius.

The Dry Cave

The Steinugleflåget dry cave is a massive cave at approximately 350 m long and 120 m deep. The cave is only accessible by snowmobile during the winter and quad bike during the warmer months.

The Preparation

The operation begins on 22 March 2014 and is expected to last five to seven days. The team rigs a rope track across the valley and transports their equipment to Steinugleflåget. A total of 1100 kg of gear is taken down to the Steinugleflåget dry cave, including additional equipment incase of emergency. The team then splits into two smaller teams: Team 1 (Patrik, Kai and Sami) start from the Plura lakeside and Team 2 (managed by Vesa) starts from the Steinugleflåget dry cave.

The plan is for Team 1 to enter from the Plura side and release the first victim from his tangled lines at a depth of 120 m and then move both of the bodies to the Steinugleflåget dry cave. The second victim will be recovered the following day.

The only way to get the victims out of the cave is to cut their gear loose underwater. The team calculates that they’ll have around 10-15 minutes in which to free the first victim. The first dive is expected to take at least seven hours, and it literally becomes more dangerous by the minute. If something goes wrong and the divers are unable to navigate the narrow passage in which the first body is stuck, the team will have to endure a potentially deadly 10-hour dive. To minimise the risk, they build a safety habitat on the Plura side for safer decompression.

A Word from the Director

Juan Reina

The project began in May 2010 when cave divers Janne Suhonen and Antti Apunen approached us with their book, “Divers of the Dark”. The book is about the exploration of a huge underwater cave system under the city of Budapest, and it also provides a general overview of the field of cave diving. The book mesmerized me and I was eager to find out more.

"It occurred to me that cave divers and astronauts are really the last true explorers in the world today. Going deep inside these caves means having to rely solely on their own skills, as no GPS or other devices can reach those depths."

Cave diving is one of the most dangerous jobs and hobbies in the world, requiring a huge amount of both physical and mental strength and stamina. The more I looked into the subject, the more certain I became that there was a powerful story to be told here.

I’ve never really been keen on diving myself, but what really interests me are things like how far ambition can drive people, how much people are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve their goals, and if there’s any clear common denominator amongst people willing to risk their lives to do something they love. Questions like this became my driving force in telling this story.

Once we decided to work together, Janne and Antti hooked us up with a group of Finnish divers who were preparing to attempt a new world record for the longest cave dive. This became the main focus of the story. While the group was preparing for the dive, a terrible accident happened 130 m below the surface in an underwater cave in Norway. Two divers drowned and three miraculously survived. Obviously the accident devastated everyone involved and our film project was put on hold. But when the official recovery operation was aborted and the three survivors decided to organise their own, we were invited to join them. This obviously dramatically changed the entire storyline, however the thematic approach remained the same. We knew this would be an extraordinary mission and a powerful story, but at the same time we also knew that it would have to be captured with absolute respect for the victims and their families.

"The accident devastated everybody and our film project was put on hold."

I strongly believe that the story has all the powerful ingredients to touch people across cultural and geographical boundaries. Ultimately this is an amazingly candid story of unconditional friendship, overcoming adversity and experiencing something that really any one of us can identify with.

The idea of going to any lengths to bring your friends home is certainly noble. But this story is even more complex than that. Ultimately it asks the question: Is this something that’s worth dying for?
Director Juan Reina

Juan Reina is a director/scriptwriter who graduated from the University of Wales, Newport in 2005 and has worked in various projects in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. His films have received awards and nominations at festivals around the world, including the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and festivals in Sheffield, Buenos Aires, Tampere, Qatar and Cairo. Juan has directed films and series for National Geographic, Channel 4, YLE, and MTV3 Finland, among others. Juan’s work includes films like “Iseta- Behind the Roadblock” 2008, “Albino United” 2010, “6954 Kilometres to Home” 2013 and a six-episode documentary series for YLE called “Operation Mannerheim” 2012. “Diving into the Unknown” 2016 is his first feature-length documentary film.

Sales Agent: Jan Rofekamp, Films Transit International,, +31 6 5392 6555

General inquiries: Juho Harjula, Monami Agency,, +358 500 190421

Runtime: 85 minutes

Production year: 2016

Production country: Finland, Norway

Rating: G

Language: Finnish, English, Swedish, Norwegian

Subtitles: English, Finnish and Swedish

Directed and written by Juan Reina

Cinematography by Jarkko M. Virtanen, Tuukka Kovasiipi

Underwater cinematography by Janne Suhonen

Edited by Riitta Poikselkä, Juan Reina

Sound design Håkon Lammetun

Music by KAADA

Original idea by Antti Apunen, Janne Suhonen

Co-Produced by Therese Naustdal, Gudmundur Gunnarsson

Co-Produced by Therese Naustdal, Gudmundur Gunnarsson / Fuglene

Produced by Juho Harjula / Monami Agency

Copyright © 2016 Monami Agency Oy

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