Arto Halonen (Princess)

Posted on April 16, 2014

Finnish filmmaker Arto Halonen is the director of the award-winning dramatic feature Princess, one of the highest-grossing Finnish films of the last 10 years. In 2005 he received the Finland Prize, the nation’s highest cultural award. He has also won the Humanitarian Award of the European Union, and is only the third filmmaker ever to receive the City of Helsinki Culture Prize. In 2008, the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival gave Halonen its lifetime achievement award. The festival’s official statement described Halonen as one of the most important documentary filmmakers of his time, saying his work contributes to the development of documentaries on an international scale.
Princess: Halonen’s first fiction feature film for cinematic distribution, Princess, opened in September 2010. It received great reviews and became one of the most financially successful Finnish features of the last decade. It premiered internationally in competition at the World Film Festival in Montreal, and took the jury’s best actress award at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. It was then selected for the Talk Cinema tour in the U.S., curated by American film critic Harlan Jacobson. It also won the Grand Prix for Best Film at the Cape Winelands Film Festival in South Africa, the Jury’s Special Mention at the Festroia International Film Festival in Portugal, second prize in competition at Viareggio EuropaCinema in Italy, and the Best Feature Film Award at the Teaneck International Film Festival in the U.S. Partly due to the success of Princess, Arto Halonen was given The Finnish National Mental Health Prize, and the Civil Action Prize of the Finnish Federation for Social Welfare and Health. In the fall of 2013, Halonen also directed and co-wrote a new musical-theater version of Princess, which premiered to favorable reviews and strong ticket sales.
Documentaries: Halonen is also an important documentary filmmaker. Five of his films have been selected for the world’s leading documentary film festival, the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), and three chosen for IDFA’s main Joris Ivens competition: Shadow of the Holy Book (2007), Pavlov’s Dogs (2006) and The Stars’ Caravan (2000). Shadow of the Holy Book was nominated for the European Film Academy’s award for best documentary of the year. Halonen’s documentaries have won many international festival prizes, and have been distributed in over 20 countries. In 2009, the European Film Academy invited him to join as a member. Halonen is the founder and first festival director of DocPoint – Helsinki Documentary Film Festival. During Halonen’s tenure, DocPoint became the biggest Nordic documentary film festival and one of the top documentary film festivals internationally. Halonen has also produced award-winning films by other directors.
When Heroes Lie: Halonen’s two most recent films deal with doping in cross-country skiing. He treated the subject first in his documentary feature When Heroes Lie. The film opened theatrically in October 2012 to overwhelmingly positive reviews, and raised an intense media discussion about doping, creating a large-scale debate on the subject in Finland, Estonia, Norway, Sweden and Italy. The film’s world premiere was at IDFA, and it was the opening film at the DocPoint Tallinn festival. It won the State Quality Award for 2013, and was a finalist for Finland’s 2013 Lumilapio Prize, which recognizes high-quality investigative journalism.
A Patriotic Man: Halonen’s latest film, the darkly comic feature A Patriotic Man, is also about doping. It had its theatrical premiere in Finland in December 2013, and continued the public doping discussion raised by When Heroes Lie. Renowned US critic Harlan Jacobson chose the film for his prestigious Talk Cinema tour of major American cities for private subscribers. Audience reactions were highly favorable, as officially reported by Talk Cinema, and US critics have praised the film as well.