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VIFF 2016 Interview: I LOVE ANNA director Joonas Rutanen

by Jason Whyte

"I Love Anna is the third part of the short film trilogy about growing up into a teenager and the awakening of sexuality. The film tells about a beginning of one's first intimate relationship between two early puberty aged teenagers. I can ensure you, nothing like this have ever been done in the Finnish film history." Director Joonas Rutanen on I LOVE ANNA which screens at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Welcome to VIFF! Is this your first VIFF experience and will you be in Vancouver to attend your screenings?

It is my second time visiting the festival and Vancouver. I will be present at the festival as well as my screenings and Q&A's. Also on Sunday October 2nd I will be attending a Workshop for Young Filmmakers with the film makers from The Lockpicker and Law of Moments.

My previous visit to Vancouver International Film Festival was in 2013 when I had my short film On Your Lips screened at the shorts programme. Vancouver was the first North American film festival I had attended. So naturally it was very exiting back then. I really enjoyed the festival and the response for the film at my screenings.

So what’s your favorite place to grab a bite of food or a drink in-between a screening?

I cannot name any specific place, but I was glad to notice the big amount of sushi restaurants in Vancouver. Also the local small brewery culture seemed to be active.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your background? Your bio, if you please!

I am a drama fiction director-screenwriter based in Helsinki, Finland. I LOVE ANNA is my second professional film work. My third short film, Aila, is about to be shot in late autumn. I'm also currently developing my first feature fiction film, The Mall.

How did this movie come together from your perspective?

I LOVE ANNA is the last episode of a short film trilogy. The concept of the film had been in my mind for a long time. The surrounding world and the locations play a big role in this trilogy. I wanted the last episode to be set at a cow farm. I wanted to show an enviroment where reproduction is a natural part of everyday life, just as normal as milking the cows can be. It is a professionally made short film production and raising funding took several years. The most memorable part in the production was the moment when i got started with the casting. The presence of young actors gives enormous energy boost immediately, a certain feel that you are doing something big and important.

While you are working on a movie, what keeps you going? What drives you, creatively?

Filmmaking is just a very natural part of my every day life. I am constantly focused on developing new stories in my head. I write about what I see and things that I have experienced. I really enjoy observing and wondering human relations. It fascinates me a lot. I want to understand life and us as a human beings.

What was your biggest challenge with this project, and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge with this project was the shower scene between the two early puberty aged actors in my film. Directing a scene with a sexual content is an enormous challenge for filmmaker when working with young teenagers. From the very first beginning you needed to be sure that these young teenagers as well as their parents are clear on what is going to be filmed. You need to be very sure that the young actors are doing their role for the right reasons and not forcing them into a situation where they feel themselves uncomfortable. I think a very small number of film makers have the needed sensitivity which makes this sort of topics possible to be told in cinema.

If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be? The moment where you thought you had something?

The first time we started to rehearse the shower scene with the young actors. They were extremely focused on it and you could really sense how the actors wanted to do the scene in the right way.

For the aspiring filmmakers who read our site, I would love to know about the technical side of the film.

The film was shot on Arri Amira. Smaller camera is a little easier to handle when shooting with steadicam. All the outdoor scenes were shot with the steadicam and by using natural light only. We wanted to make longer shots and many times cover the scene with one shot only. It often meant that we had to be able to turn 360 degrees within the scene. The steadicam gave more freedom for the actors as they were able to move freely with their own rhythm. In the shower scene we wanted to get more of a raw feeling and decided to shoot it completely with hand- held camera.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie to audiences at VIFF?

I am looking forward to my Q&As. There are always people in the audience who have had similar teenage experiences. It's always glad to see if people can relate to the story. But I also think that this film should be especially seen from the teenage audience. In Vancouver we will have that opportunity. Unlike many other coming-of age films, I Love Anna presents sexuality in a positive light. It doesn't lead to bad consequences. I think this sort approach is something we should be able give to growing teenagers.

Where is this movie going to show next? Any ideas of how you would like to distribute the film?

The next film festivals will be at Brest European Short Film Festival in France, at Nordic Film Days Lubeck, Germany, at The Short Film Festival of Switzerland and at Hanoi International Film Festival. We already have a sales agent in Europe, KurzFilmAgentur Hamburg. Naturally we would be interested to find an agent for North American distribution as well.

If you could show your movie in any theatre in the world, which one would you choose and why?

I cannot name any specific theatres. The only thing that counts is the audience. The theatres are nothing without them.

What would you say or do to someone who is talking, texting or being overall disruptive during a screening of your film?

I would share my popcorn with them.

There are many aspiring filmmakers reading us for our articles and reviews on If you could offer a nugget of advice to them on how to get their start, what would you say to them?

There are a lot of filmmakers with very high developed skills in technical area of film making. However, I believe that one clear way to the industry is being able to write good scripts. The decisions on funding are made on screenplays. If you come up with the best scenarios, now one can stop you from entering the business.

And finally, what is the best movie you have ever seen at a film festival, and why?

The best film I ever seen on the film festival would be Won Kar Wai's IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE in Helsinki Film Festival. The film is a masterpiece of all times. What can I say more.

There are a lot of brilliant film festivals. In the end what matters is the people you meet. I think people make the festivals. The most memorable festival experience has been at the Beijing International Student Film Festival 2009. It was my first festival abroad Finland and I was traveling all the way to China. I had never even been to Asia, so it was such an exciting opportunity to get to travel. They invited a big number of student filmmakers from all over the world. I think there were attendance from more than 50 countries. The screening was at massive theatre with 1000 seats and it was all packed. People had to sit at the stairs because there were no seats left. But the best thing was the parties, the Beijing night life and of course karaoke which we were able to explore with the local film maker students. It is one of the most unmemorable experience I have had in my life so far.

This is one of the many films screening at the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival taking place in beautiful Vancouver from September 29th to October 14th. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte

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originally posted: 10/14/16 03:54:33
last updated: 10/14/16 03:57:14
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