Espoo Ciné celebrated cinema in the midst of restrictions and ended with an award ceremony

Next year's festival will be arranged in August. Laura Laaksonen is the festival's new Executive Director.

The 32nd Espoo Ciné International Film Festival brought the best of European and Finnish cinema to theatres in Espoo and Helsinki on August 23–29. "We received a lot of praise from the audience for the festival's safety precautions, as well as for the fact that we were able to arrange the festival despite the severe restrictions," tells Espoo Ciné's Executive Director Mia Vainikainen. "In these difficult times brought on by the pandemic, it was particularly meaningful that we were able to arrange the festival in cinemas, even though the theatres' capacity had to be limited to just 15–20%."

The festival finished on Sunday night with an award ceremony at the sold-out screening of the closing film Herself in Kino Tapiola. The first ever Espoo Ciné Award was presented to Paula Vesala. The award was presented by Alma Pöysti. Vesala defended the cultural sector in her speech. "I suggest that we, the 135 000 professionals in the cultural sector decide that we are equal to everyone else. We are not dirtier or more dangerous than the rest, and we can do our job. The audience, public and the Finnish people have a right to the culture, which we make."

The audience was drawn to theatres by the festival's gala films, which quickly sold out their screenings. Juho Kuosmanen's Compartment no. 6 was first seen in Finland as the festival's opening film, with three screenings, in which actor Seidi Haarla and producer Jussi Rantamäki appeared as guests. The Gravedigger's Wife was first seen in Finland at the festival, as the Finnish Gala Premiere. The screening was presented by director Khadar Ayderus Ahmed, actor Omar Abdi and producer Mark Lwoff, as well as other members of the film crew.

Among the most popular films at the festival were Jonás Trueba's charming depiction of Madrid, The August Virgin, Małgorzata Szumowska's and Michał Englert's atmospheric satire Never Gonna Snow Again and It Snows in Benidorm, a melancholic drama starring Timothy Spall and directed by Isabel Coixet. The festival's popular domestic programme included Claes Olsson's Sulphur Yellow Sky, the Finnish co-production The Other Side of the River, as well as Jussi nominees Any Day Now and Tove.

The festival had plenty of filmmaker guests from Finland and Europe. Director Javier Polo Gandía and screenwriter Sixto García entertained the audience in the screenings of their documentary The Mystery of the Pink Flamingo. Director Johann Lurf presented his film ★ on the festival and discussed the starry sky with author Markus Hotakainen. Various Finnish filmmaker guests were present at screenings of films nominated for the best film Jussi.

Laura Laaksonen begins working as Espoo Ciné's Executive Director on Wednesday, September 1, replacing Mia Vainikainen, who moves onto new challenges. Laaksonen comes to Espoo Ciné from Tampere Film Festival, where she worked as Executive Director. "As I was born and bred in Espoo, it brings me particular joy to come to work at Espoo's very own film festival," says Laaksonen. "I look forward to starting work at this incredible event and with this amazing group of people."

Next year's Espoo Ciné will be arranged in the festival's familiar spot in August. Espoo Ciné wants to thank the festival's amazing visitors, supporters and the irreplaceable volunteers!