Film About "Stolen Children" Wins 2020 Award of the Church Media Foundation in Finland

"Look at me" Award 2020 goes to "My Dear Mother" by Paul-Anders Simma
My Dear Mother (Paul-Anders Simma)

The winner of the “Look at me” Award of the Church Media Foundation at the Oulu International Children’s and Youth Film Festival 2020 is director Paul-Anders Simma and his documentary youth film  Ráhkkis eadni (My Dear Mother, Finland, Sweden, Norway, 2019).

The documentary follows teenagers Tasha and her dearest friend Alyona as they seek to find out why their mothers abandoned them. Dasha and Alyona grew up together in an orphanage and their childhoods were haunted by sorrow, confusion and loneliness. Tasha’s traumatic family history had fallen on her shoulders when she was only a child. She also didn’t have the opportunity to familiarize herself with her Sámi background, its language and its culture. Their friendship carries them through tears, and the definition of a loving family proves to be diverse and inclusive.

The Jury for this year’s award was Monica Vikström-Jokela, broadcaster for the Swedish-speaking children's programmes of the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE.

Her statement of the winner reads: “My Dear Mother makes you feel how desperately everyone longs for the love of one’s parents. The film also shows that there is comfort in learning about your own history. And above all: If your parents fail you, others may step in and become your safety net. You are not necessarily alone.

Throughout, the makers of this film stay close to the faces of Tasha and Alyonna as they grow from children to teenagers on the verge of independence. This consequent use of close-ups draws the viewer close to the main characters, while the visual storytelling keeps the grown-ups at a distance. This is probably why this otherwise conventionally built documentary breaks the screen with surprising force and gets under the skin of the viewer. Waking up the next day, you still find yourself thinking of Dasha and Alyona and wondering what happened to them.

Religious elements evoke respect as well as questions: How can an abandoned teenager think that she is paying for the sins of her mother?”

The award is 1.500 Euros, and it has been delivered at Oulu International Children’s and Youth Film Festival since 2009. The aim of the award is to support and to encourage filmmakers to deal with Christian values and ethical questions through their films. The Church Media Foundation has been established by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and its biggest parish unions in 2005.