In the freer climate of the 1990s, some young women from Estonia are enticed into Finland to work as dancers and entertainers. Many, like 18-year-old Irma, find themselves doing striptease.
A Tallinn dance school entices women with images of Hollywood and glamour, but reality throws these Estonian dancers into dreary backstage changing rooms in small-town Finland. Tricked into performing striptease, the women receive only a pittance for their shows, as both the Finnish booking agency and the broker in Estonia take a lion’s share of the profits. But the show must go on, if only under strict contingency clauses preventing escape. Even returning home for Christmas is made difficult. Support comes mostly from older colleagues as they show the ropes of the industry.
Through Estonian dancer Irma, the documentary depicts mid-1990s Finland, where women dreaming of opportunities abroad were conned into striptease tours of backwater dive bars. Chronicling the bleak history of the Finnish entertainment industry, Don’t Tell Daddy was John Webster’s master’s thesis work as he graduated from the University of Art and Design Helsinki.
Omar Fasolah (translated by Virpi Sumu)