An Interview with Mervi Junkkonen (Director)
Things I Inherited from My Father
Q: It seems that your father filmed the changes on your farm on 8mm. Was it your father’s influence that led you to filmmaking?
MJ: There was always a camera and film around the house ever since I was a child, so that certainly was one reason, but I had no intention to make it my job. However, while I was making this film, I realized that I really had been influenced by my father. As I was finishing the edit, I felt that although I hadn’t taken up farming, I had taken on other things from him. I realized that this was something I could be proud of, and that made me very happy.
Q: What led you to begin production on this work?
MJ: After regulations changed in the EU, small-scale farms in Finland were driven to a very painful condition where they couldn’t make a profit. Watching that happen was very painful for me. I had come from a farm in the country, and I felt I had to do something about it. I had graduated from film school and had a video camera; what I could do was make a movie. Many films about farms had been made up until then, but those all gave me the impression that they were looking at farms from the outside. I thought I could make a film from the inside that speaks from the farmer’s position. At first I was shooting three different farms, but many things happened in my home so I decided to continue shooting my own family alone. I spent a year and a half filming.
Q: In the official catalog, you’re quoted as saying, “making a movie about yourself always brings difficulty.” What kind of difficulty did you mean?
MJ: Of course there were many problems. Under any circumstances, it’s very difficult to film those close to yourself.
When shooting your family, you mustn’t avoid wondering if it’s valuable enough to make a movie. You have to choose: do you want to sympathize with the family or take a step back from their feelings? When I was shooting, it was always possible for me to hide behind the camera. I think this relates to, for instance, when people film the disaster of a battlefield—they’re able to do it because they do have a camera. One thing I realized while filming this film was that the camera creates distance from the outer world, a battlefield, for example.
Within the film, when the family encountered a crisis—when my sister became ill, for example—I had to concentrate on my work, take a step back, and refrain from expressing my emotions on the surface. However, I was worried and sad just as my family were. During the editing process I was finally able to expose my emotions and weep.
Shooting this film, I started to understand how people felt when I was filming them. It was a big thing for me to experience and understand this by myself.
Q: Thank you for such an interesting conversation. Do you have any plans for your next project?
MJ: It’s still in the planning stages, but I’m interested in doing something about immigrants. Recently I moved from Finland to Sweden. I believe that documentary or any art is something that comes forth from inside the artist—what they feel, what they’re interested in. The starting point is always within oneself.
(Compiled by Hikino Nagisa)
Interviewers: Hikino Nagisa, Masuya Shoko / Interpreter: Saito Shinko
Photography: Murayama Hideaki / Video: Oyama Daisuke / 2005-10-09