What would happen if you made a film about a key figure in Finnish history and cast Kenyan actors?

UPDATED: ‘The Marshal of Finland’, a new film about that country’s first post-World War II president and national icon (and controversial war figure), Carl Gustaf Mannerheim, has left Finns divided. At the heart of the “debate” is the fact that the  film was shot in Kenya, with an entirely Kenyan cast playing the Finnish roles. ‘The Marshal of Finland’ is described as “combining traditions of African storytelling and biographical elements of Mannerheim.” The characters speak Swahili and some brief English. Most of the production crew were Kenyan (the director is a Kenyan, Gilbert Lukalia). Much of the negative reaction to the film, disguised as questions about costs to the tax payer, really revolved around black actors playing Mannerheim and his wife and mistress.

Finnish nationalists also felt insulted that a national hero was played by non-Finns. Finnish media made much of the fact that “a dark-skinned actor” played Mannerheim. (The lead actor, btw, goes by Telley Savalas Oteinno). The Finnish producer has received threats.

Here’s the trailer:

The production was a collaboration between the Finnish public broadcaster YLE who forked out the money for it, a Kenyan production team (including actors, director and writers) who largely created the film, and an Estonian production company which has been in charge of the intercontinental link up.

The film was aired on Finnish TV last month.

The whole media circus that  followed in Finland — mainly directed by tabloids newspapers — has created this unquestioned and inaccurate image of a nation feeling insulted, all based on anecdotal evidence, i.e. online comments in story threads. Examples: “How can we waste money on such?!”, “Our license fees go to some foreigners,” the comments read.

The film is still available online, so you can watch and judge it for yourself — if you’re fluent in Finnish (for the subtitles) or Swahili.



11 thoughts on “What would happen if you made a film about a key figure in Finnish history and cast Kenyan actors?

  1. Huh? This story is very stream of consciousness! I am none the wiser having read it. How about a rewrite into something coherent that has a beginning, middle, end and explains the context and background?

  2. What is this writer really saying?
    I understood ABSOLUTELY nothing.
    Can someone else rewrite this story with factual analysis and actually provide info?

  3. LOL, people are just dramatic, world stories are acted all the time by whoever and however, what is there to be angry about. last king of scotland, the former president of Uganda was acted by an America, and there was not this much noise, people should just get used to it

  4. The blubber above – no sense, no direction, no beginning or end is really shameful. Africa As A Country editors please do something.

  5. LOL. I don’t have time yet to watch this video, but I like the concept of getting an European story out of context and place in an African context. So now it’s the other way around, in stead of Europeans or Americans playing or misusing African stories. So what. I think watching this movie will by a valuable but uneasy lesson for me as an European.

    • The original title of “Kayonga Kagame Shows us the World” is “Dunkles, Rätselhaftes Österreich” (Darkest Austria) and it’s a sequel to the brilliant mockumentary “Das Fest des Huhnes” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zrjLxEjGZ8), of which I can’t find an English version, sorry. It’s about Kagame and his team of filmmakers who “discover” Oberösterreich (including establishing first contact with kids by distributing candy) and encounter its strange rituals, most curious of all, one in which a village builds a huge tent and then proceeds to drink lots of beer, eat grilled chicken and listen to noisy music for several days. As the churches are empty, they conclude that Austrian tribes have supplanted the lamb with the chicken as symbl of sacrifice. I’m sure every first year anthropology student in Germany knows the movie.

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