Thursday, March 06, 2014

Presidentintekijät / The Campaign - The Making of a President

Elina Laaksonen carrying a cardboard Sauli
Tampere Film Festival: National Competition 5
In Finnish with English subtitles

THE INNER CIRCLE [the international title during Tampere Film Festival]

Finland 2014
Documentary | 75 min

Director: Tuukka Temonen
Elokuva vaalityöryhmästä ja kymmenestä kokouksesta suljettujen ovien takana.
The Inner Circle is a film about ten meetings behind the scenes during a historical presidential campaign of the National Coalition Party in Finland

AA: The most sensational movie of the Festival, Presidentintekijät has been in the headlines for weeks.

It's worth the attention.

It's about Sauli Niinistö's presidential campaign in 2012, and the focus is in "the war room" of the National Coalition Party, led by party secretary Taru Tujunen. The model for Tuukka Temonen was Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker's The War Room (1993). It was made 20 years ago, but such a candid approach to politics is still something new in our land.

The film is not really about Sauli Niinistö.

It's about the experts leading the campaign, people such as Taru Tujunen, Kirsi Piha, Jenni Haukio, Mikko Kortelainen, Jussi Kekkonen, Olli-Pekka Niskanen, Hanna Laine, Jukka Manninen, Hjallis Harkimo, Pasi Heiskanen, and Pete Pokkinen.

The protagonist is Taru Tujunen, who has no reason for offense. This is a contemporary candid documentary, and there are no such behind-the-screen revelations here that would be a cause for embarrassment.

Apparently the film's vision came as a surprise for Taru Tujunen and her team but such a sometimes brutal honesty contributes to an impact of openness and sincerity which in the end is a service to the public image of the party and its candidate who was elected by a landslide.

Don't blame the mirror if you don't like the image.

The film fails to discuss matters of substance in the presidential campaign, but those matters would require another vehicle.

The dramaturgy is well developed.

The team prepares for a particularly vicious forthcoming tv grilling where the weak points of the candidate will be mercilessly exposed. So they need to make a list of those weak points. Among them is the lack of experience in foreign politics (the most important field of activity for the president of Finland).

The team surveys the rivals by watching their election billboards. The image of Lipponen causes spontaneous laughter.

The most interesting aspect is the analysis of the rapidly changing political and cultural atmosphere. The campaign team pays attention to the reactionary Christian minister Räsänen's intolerant statements causing 40.000 Finns to withdraw from the Church. Sudden changes are taking place.

The reactionary True Finns managed a "jytky", a jackpot success in the parliament election in 2011, but the twin success of Niinistö and his surprise main rival, Pekka Haavisto, one year later confirm an "anti-jytky" for openness and liberalism. The fact of Pekka Haavisto being openly gay becomes surprisingly a strength for him.

Jyrki Katainen, the chairman, might help boost Niinistö, but: "Jyrki and Sauli, that sounds gay". "Just what we might need", quips somebody.

In a television debate the two final candidates were urged to select a song for each other. Niinistö selected, not "Y.M.C.A.", but "All You Need Is Love" for Haavisto. Haavisto for Niinistö, "Money" by Liza Minnelli. Here Niinistö proved more generous and broad-minded.

The film surfs almost totally on the surface. In my opinion Niinistö had the best experts in his presidential campaign, but his popular success is not based on them but stems instead from his own personal rapport with the public opinion, including unrehearsed and spontaneous reactions in moments of pain and danger, also when his first wife died, and when he was rescued from the tsunami catastrophe in Thailand. Somehow there is a sense that we know him, that we can connect with his gut reactions, and that we can trust him instinctively.

The last parliamentary and presidential elections have opened a new era in Finnish politics. The victory of the populist True Finns shattered the entire traditional political structure that had lasted over a hundred years. The president of Finland had been a Social Democrat for thirty years, but now not even the main rival was one. Not since J. K. Paasikivi (president in 1946-1956) had there been a president from the National Coalition Party. But Sauli Niinistö is a man of a new era from a party not interested in dwelling in the past, instead looking into the future. He has even managed to steal the fire from the Left.

There is a subtle dramaturgy of looks. There are exchanges of expressions which convey secret stories between the dramatis personae. There is more than meets the eye.

1 comment:

Miia Haavisto said...

Mainio kirjoitus. Englanninkielinen nimi on vaihtunut sen jälkeen, kun elokuva ilmoitettiin Tampereelle. Se on The Campaign- the Making of a President.