Post from the last millenium

It was long long time ago, almost a century, or a millenium, now that we are in 2019…

At that time, there was no wifi, no Brexit, no war in Ukraine, telephones had no cameras, and Nokia was still big.
My name is Pierre-Olivier François. I am a French German documentary filmmaker and journalist. French-german meaning: I was born some 48 years ago in Nancy, France, moved as a child to Göttingen, then (West-)Germany, than back to France etc…
My Finland journalist young program was 1996, and like for you all, it was great fun : sauna, aquavit, lakes, samis, reindeers, the santa village but also Arvo Pärt and the Leningrad Cowboys.

Leningrad Cowboys.

To me, it was an opening to the world, to Northern Europe, to exchanges with foreign friends and ideas, and to Russia seen from the West. At University, my best friend was in love with Russia, and had taken me several times to Moscow, Petersburg etc. And now, I remember when we walked with FYJP in the woods on the Finnish-russian border, seeing old bunkers from « the winter war », old stones showing former borders with Russia, and then a white and blue sign marking « the end of Europe ». On the other side : same grass, same trees, same beries… But at that time, Russians were still welcomed customers who were enjoying a taste of the West in Helsinki.

From the border of Finland and Russia.

The FYJP program was effective – it put Finland at least on my map. So, when I started as a TV reporter at the ARTE evening news (french-german public tv, I know, I do have the right background…), I did also some stories in Finland. One was about the counting memories of the Finnish civil war, when Whites and Reds shot at each other, visiting the local Lenin museum in Tampere, another one about businesses, a third about the Midnight sun film festival of Aki Kaurismäki in Lapland (my room was in between the one of Costa Gavras’ on my left, and Francesco Rosi’ on the right – never ever did I have such an glamourous B&B again ; we also had great interviews at midnight with sun-drunken locals and plenty of mosquitos). And my very first documentary was… a long road-movie with a finnish crew along the 1300 km of finnish-russian border. Lots of fun again, including visiting a reindeer meat factory, watching old American limousines cruising in small villages on saturday nights, or diving in the sea at the most northern point of the continent (PS : water is cold up there).

Midnight Sun Film Festival.

Since then, I have done around 15 documentary films, focusing on North Korea (« Have fun in Pyongyang », 2018), ancient rare books (« the fake manuscript of Galileo », 2019), Cyberwar (2016), UN peacekeeping (« UN – last station before hell », 2015 – with some finnish peacekeepers if I remember right), but also a famous pianist (« Clara Haskil, a performer’s enigma » 2017), or pizza, soda and French fries (« Pizza Nostra », 2006, « Once upon a french fry », 2008, and other stuff.

I try to combine very human stories with the complexity of the global context. I am convinced that it is visually possible to mix in a very attractive and concerning way the emotional level with strong policy questions.
I am looking forward to learn lots of new things about Finland, have a drink at the Café Moscow if it is still around, see Kiasma, enjoy a sauna, and see some new places – like the Aland Islands. And, if time allows, I would love to make on Sunday the famous ferry trip to Tallinn

Looking forward to meet & discuss this with you all around a Lapin Kulta;



Author: Pierre-Olivier - France

Pierre-Olivier François works as filmmaker and journalist for the European cultural channel ARTE. He participated in the Foreign Correspondents’ Programme in 1996, which resulted in a long-lasting interest in Finland and, amongst other things, in his first documentary film, Finland from the East (2003), which is a road movie from Southern Finland to the former Finnish port of Petsamo in the North. The film was coproduced by ARTE and YLE. Since then, Pierre-Olivier François has made several documentary films about a wide range of subjects, from UN Peacekeeping to North Korea, Edward Snowden to the pianist Clara Haskil. He also makes regular contributions to the Dessous de cartes/mit offenen Karten, a weekly geopolitical programme, and to other programmes related to politics, economy, social issues and culture on ARTE.

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