Documentary film (68min)
”The story of a Baltic German refugee who became Lapland’s father of light.”
Filmmaker Antti Haase takes us on a personal journey, learning about his fathers’ legacy. Baltic German engineer Gunnar Haase, initially a refugee, arrived in Finnish Lapland in 1945 to repair the destruction left by the Germans. When he decided to electrify all of Lapland, the whole idea seemed utterly insane. There were hardly any roads, the villages were scattered, and a lot of the inhabitants were sceptical. But soon a handful of hardy men were erecting pylons with the most basic equipment. Antti’s father Hannu continued grandfather Gunnar’s mission to bring electricity to Lapland – the powerlines finally reaching the very last Lapland home on the 23th July,1987. Rural electrification was an enormous undertaking; it brought modern life and equality to people still living in the harsh nature. And while theundertaking took a heavy toll, it also illuminated the way forward. THE ILLUMINATORS is an inspiring story about courage and social progress as well as sons following in their father’s footsteps.
Writer & Director: Antti Haase
Editor: Mikko Sippola
Cinematography: Mikko Leinonen, Antti Haase
Sound Recording: Timo Haanpää
Music: Håkon Gebhardt
Sound Designer: Jani Viitala
Sound Mixer: Martti Turunen
Graphic Design & Animations: Arttu Tuovinen
Producer: Jouko Aaltonen
Production company: Illume Ltd
As a child, many people told me that I would become the third managing director of Rovakaira Electric, succeeding my grandfather Gunnar and father Hannu. When I didn’t, I had a bad conscience about it. At the entrance exam of Australian Film TV and Radio School in 1998, the staff members asked me to pitch film ideas. I said that one day I would like to make a film about my grandfather, who electrified Finnish Lapland. This film idea was highly commended and maybe was the main reason why I got into the school. On a Christmas holiday trip to Finland, I then interviewed Gunnar as a test shoot with my first video camera. After that, the film idea hibernated for almost 20 years – until I finally started really working on it in 2014. It was at the last moment, as it later turned out. I soon realized the story had been too close for me to really see why I had to tell it.
Back in 1980s, I worked for Rovakaira Electric as a summer trainee. As I started thinking what kind of film I wanted to make, I remembered how much I loved listening to the stories of the workers during the breaks. I found out that there were still men alive, who had worked for my grandfather on the first power lines way back in late 1940s. I started collecting their original working clothes, hand tools and learning about the old work methods. I found a perfect filming location: a huge storage yard full of old transformers, pylons and isolators. I wanted my “working class heroes” to relive their old work roles – one more time. When I saw the old-timers eyes sparkle as they pulled on the old coveralls, I knew I had succeeded. Memories flooded back to them, their posture straightened and it felt like the old electricians had just drank from the fountain of Youth.
From 1940s to 1960s, my grandfather Gunnar travelled all over Lapland to hold electrification rallies in small rural villages, converting skeptical people into believing in electricity. When The Illuminators was completed in June 2017, I first wanted to screen the film in exactly same locations where Gunnar had visited. I discovered during the filmmaking process that these rural people didn’t take electricity for granted and many still remembered the first encounter with “the father of light”. My father Hannu was present in the first screening in Tepasto village. Over half of the village population packed into an old school gym. My bad conscience evaporated that evening. I had found my own way to follow in my fathers’ footsteps.
My father died unexpectedly 16.3.2018. Since then, I have found consolation in the screenings of The Illuminators. The screenings have become a sort of private memorial service in public space for me. I know that his story lives on in the film. Moreover, I remember what my father told me at the Tepasto village screening: “Son, I am proud of you.”