Docpoint – Helsinki Documentary Film Festival


Black Cat on the Snow + Christmas in the Distance

Christmas in the Distance
dir. Anu Kuivalainen, Finland 1994
Anu Kuivalainen’s intimate and sincere Christmas in the Distance is one of the key works in the movement of personal documentaries that was born in Finland in the 1990s. “The biggest thing of all is calling on the phone,” worries the young director. She gathers up courage to contact her father, whom she has only seen in one old photograph. The frenzied, sepia-toned search for her father is intertwined with colourful 8mm film images from little Anu’s childhood in the 1960s.

Tytti Rantanen (translated by Inari Ylinen)

Black Cat on the Snow
It’s a big day for Tea. She is leaving prison, hopefully for the last time. Before that, there are hugs and mascara wiped from the cheeks. As a taxpayer, it is certainly good to see how Tea is supported by the prison officers. Outside, there are two kids, an empty apartment, and mail order furniture that keeps getting lost waiting for her.

What’s missing is the father of one of her children. Tea did not hate her spouse, things just escalated. A new year’s celebration for nice people, shrieks an old headline in Alibi magazine.

According to a new study from Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, Prison and Probation Service of Finland, and Health Care Services for Prisoners, 97 % of female prisoners in Finland have faced violence themselves. Tea is no exception. The camera is practically peeling an onion as it films Tea’s difficult phone calls with her ex-partner. Little by little, it becomes clear that there is more going on behind the strained conversation than just Tea attempting to visit her second child.

In new love lies new hope, but also a new threat. Must you bite my neck, when it hurts, Tea pleads. Wolves also bite their females, is the answer.

Director Anu Kuivalainen’s documentary won the main award in the National Competition of Tampere Film Festival and was acclaimed internationally. To the joy of the festivalgoer, it has also stood the test of time exceptionally well and is a chest-tightening and humane work that shows how many tragedies can be found behind a single crime.

Sanni Myllyaho (translated by Inari Ylinen)

Language: Finnish
Subtitles: English
Length: 96 min
Age Limit: K7
Year: 1999
Production Country: Finland

Director: Anu Kuivalainen
Producer: Lasse Saarinen
Production Company: Kinotar Oy
Distribution Company: Kinotar Oy
Screenplay: Anu Kuivalainen
Editing: Anu Kuivalainen
Cinematographer: Marita Hällfors
Sound Design: Olli Huhtanen