Riitti: A Conversation with Liisa Haapanen



Tell us about yourself. What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

Hi! My name is Liisa Haapanen, I am 32 years old video artist and musician from Finland. My passion for film started in 2011 when I attended a film workshop in Slovakia. The film workshop was part of my journalism studies and the aim of the workshop was to finish a short documentary within two weeks. No background work was done beforehand. I worked with two Czech young women and with one Slovakian woman and together we managed to make a short documentary about a young gypsy woman who had a history with sexual assault and violence. That was a rough story. Even though I wasn’t able to speak Czech I sensed everything that was happening during the shooting days. After every day was finished we spoke together as a film group and shared our experience of the day. Working like this, doing film together was mind blowing to me. After I returned home to Finland I decided I want to work somehow with films or with moving image.


Talk about your last work. What are some of the challenges you faced during production?

My latest work is a music video called Riitti (in English the name would be Ritual) which I directed for my own folk music group called Hurja Halla. This is a story about sorrow. I wanted to study the emotion of sorrow and that is the reason why the story is quite sad. When we were shooting this music video Riitti it was the darkest season in Finland. The music video was shot in November when there is sunlight only for some hours per day. So we had to be really quick while shooting. The weather was also quite cold but we were lucky and nobody got sick. Thank you super crew camera operator Saara Karttunen, actress Heli Lyytikäinen and Janne Ojajärvi.


What makes you want to tell stories? In other words, what are the themes/issues you want to incorporate into your work?

I think in the core of my work is human mind. I am curious about to understand the way different people think and live. Why do we make so different choices? This is a topic that never reveals to itself somehow. The more I think of it the more questions arise.


Please tell us about your vision and your method of approaching a new project?

I think I do some kind of a background work all the time even though I don’t even realize it. I read, I make notes and try to make sense about - well basically - about everything. I have so many ideas in my head but for some reason only a few of them feels important enough to work with. When I am in the process where I need to choose a topic, this is usually a hard phase for me. Usually I take some time and wait what will happen. If there is one topic that still continues to bother me, I choose it. This kind of process takes time and it is mostly subconscious.



Who are your filmmaking influencers? What are the films that were influential for you?

Swedish film director Lukas Moodysson could be one influencer. I watched his films Fucking Åmål and Lilja 4-ever when I was a young girl and both of the films felt important. I also want to name Finnish film directors Selma Vilhunen and Juho Kuosmanen. I appreciate their empathic perspective on humanity.


How do you think the industry is changing? How has COVID affected independent filmmaking/creation?

I think and hope that the film industry is becoming more versatile because of new, critical and ambitious film makers. Also independent film making is nowadays quite budget friendly at to some extent. Due to COVID there were lockdowns and travel restrictions. I assume many films and projects have been postponed due to these conditions.


What advice would you give to aspiring artists? What are some of the things they must follow/avoid?

Cliché may it be, but I think every film maker or artist should follow their own path.


Do you think films/stories can bring about a change in the world?

Definitely yes I think they can. Emotions are the most influential factor of human behavior.


What do you think people like to watch these days? Has the pandemic changed people's taste?

This is a really hard question because people are so different and tastes vary. I would say the pandemic has not changed the taste but the consumption of films through streaming services has arisen.


Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

Besides indie films I do music. Next I would like to make a media art piece combining my own cello music with visual storytelling. This could be a live concert and also a video piece. Let’s see what will happen. I am really hopeful towards my artistic work at the moment.


If you want to know more about my work, here are some links:

www.liisahaapanen.com

www.hurjahalla.com