Following the Venice Film Festival premiere of her Biennale College Cinema title “Palimpsest” – about two people that start to age backwards – Finnish helmer Hanna Västinsalo will continue to play with sci-fi elements in “Space Hobos: How to Bum a Ride from Sector B12 to Module C9.”
“It’s about workers like plumbers, welders or cleaners, trying to make their way in the world of space travel,” Västinsalo explains to Variety in Italy.
“The core of the story is drawn from my own experience of being a starving artist and trying to make it. Not always knowing how to pay rent or having money to buy groceries.”
Västinsalo is also eyeing longer formats, developing “Heaven”: a series about a nun who, after being estranged from her father, inherits his male brothel.
“I would love to explore the world that revolves around female pleasure and the bonds of a family that ends up working together, despite their different beliefs,” she adds.
“What unifies these two projects is my desire to shake people’s preconceived notions, while also offering them a moment of escapism. The very same way ‘Star Wars’ and ‘X-Men’ comics provided a teen from the Finnish countryside with a space to dream.”
Västinsalo, who previously showed “Man Under Bridge” at Venice VR Expanded, studied directing at the American Film Institute Conservatory in Los Angeles. She also holds a PhD in molecular genetics, with her science background providing her with a unique perspective.
“I don’t like to talk about myself, which is very Finnish, but maybe I can bring some reality to these stories. Science doesn’t always happen in impossibly shiny labs. It happens in some basement, with people talking about what’s for lunch,” she laughs.
Her elderly protagonists in “Palimpsest,” chosen for a gene therapy trial, slowly start to de-age. But they react very differently to the change. While Juhani focuses on a childhood dream that previously eluded him, Tellu can’t stop, becoming younger and younger.
“If you are taking part in a medical trial, you don’t necessarily know all the details. They are told it would cure their illnesses and then there is this side effect. I wanted the audience to know as much as they do, which is almost nothing.”
Riitta Havukainen, Emma Kilpimaa, “Beforeigners” star Krista Kosonen, Kaisu Mäkelä, Leo Sjöman and Antti Virmavirta star.
“We all have a clock in our genes. The idea of manipulating it has been around for decades and it might become our reality one day. But if you would be given a chance to become a teenager again, what would you do?,” wonders Västinsalo.
“There was this 80-year-old man I used to know. He led a very non-scientific life, but he always talked about the stars. Juhani also finds an old dream he starts to chase. Tullu doesn’t know how to let go of her past.”
She wants the audience to relate to their struggles, she says.
“They are just trying to do their best. We all are.”
“We all carry something we would rather forget. She thinks that if she just gets a bit younger, maybe she will finally get a fresh start. But it’s not that simple.”
While Juhani and Tullu are not romantically involved, Västinsalo still sees the film as “an unconventional love story.” With the two becoming each other’s family after others, including their own children, don’t always embrace the change.
“Just think about it. If your parents or grandparents would just show up one day, back in their 20s, how would you feel? It’s a shock to your system,” she adds. Noting that the film’s “weird concept,” or the lack of a clear target audience, made it much harder to finance.
“If it wasn’t for the Biennale College, I don’t know if I would get funding anywhere else. Also, it’s a Finnish sci-fi, so people just internalize everything. They don’t talk! That’s the tragedy of this story,” she says.
“Still, I thought: ‘If I only get to make one feature, what would it be?’ That was the answer for me. I love creating worlds and I just like films that make you think, make you see things in a different way. So maybe that’s my thing, after all.”
“Palimpsest” was produced by Cyril Jacob Abraham for Thinkseed Films.
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