Film is an untouchable and complex art form. Contemporary film is a medium of art that is pulsating with an assortment of creativity among genre and style. It’s vast, ever-changing and difficult to stay updated with all the current trends happening in film. With that said, I chose to feature another brilliantly talented expat who has also traveled the world but made Helsinki home.
Jeroen Sebrechts is a young Belgian filmmaker who has been living in Helsinki for four years. Creating cutting, character-dominated short films Jeroen has found his niche as an up-and-coming short filmmaker in a sea of talent. His work is suggestive and searing – touching upon many themes including conflict, intimacy and internal struggle. His most recent short film Free Flow has received many accolades at various International Film Festivals, including Florence Long Take Film Festival and the New Directors New Films Festival, and rightfully so. Free Flow is phenomenal. Simplistic yet thought-provoking, Free Flow follows an outdoor jogger in the heart of the desolate Hungarian winter, and projects the burden of the “internal monologue” – the struggle with self-reflection.
I have always admired the process of the “short” film. To make a concise, thoughtfully explicit point in a very small amount of time without losing cohesion or tonality requires incredible focus. It also requires coddling, distant admiration and patience. After watching Jeroen’s films I had to know more. We had a chat about his life and his past experiences, and here’s what Jeroen had to say:
ML: Why films?
JS: I followed my gut feeling. I never thought of myself as a movie buff, actually. It’s just the medium that came most natural to me.
ML: What’s special about shorts in your view?
JS: Most short films are pretty conventional lack cohesion, to be frank. To create a story arch for such a short time usually results in a very simplistic story, preferably with a funny twist in the end. Ba-dam-ping. It’s a real challenge to work with a limited duration and create genuine characters and an interesting story line. Ideally, I think a short film should make audiences want to see more.
ML: Topics that interest you as a director?
JS: I am interested in seeing real people on screen. If a character captivates me, I will gladly follow whatever ups and downs he/she experiences.
ML: Florence experience with Free Flow? And Defy?
JS: Both the Florence Long Take Festival and the Defy Film Festival were organized for the first time. Unfortunately they had a small budget and couldn’t invite any of the filmmakers to the festival. Defy had clearly a more professional management, in fact they were filmmakers themselves who really cared about screening what they loved in good conditions. They were in close contact with me, and even got some press for Free Flow. The Florence Festival was organized by students who were limited on time, but it still was a lovely experience to be a part of.
ML: People in the industry you respect?
JS: I went to live in Hungary for two years (2010-12) because I admired the Hungarian film scene and wanted to be a part of it. I learned the language and got to work with top crew that I really admire for Free Flow: Zsolt Nagy is an incredible actor who would be an international star if only his English would be better. Matyas Erdely was the director of photography for Free Flow and also for Son of Saul, the Hungarian film that won the Oscar for best foreign film this year (2016). In Finland, I think Aki Kaurismäki is still unequaled in his film-making art.
ML: Why Helsinki?
JS: When I moved out of Hungary, it was 1) because I could not see a future for myself there (nor for anyone else, actually) and mostly, 2) because I was in love with a Finnish girl. We are still terribly in love and have a lovely daughter together. I haven’t really felt inspired to make more films unfortunately – only to finish post-production on Free Flow. Since last year I took up studies in Arts Management to open up more career paths for myself.
Moving to Finland has always been a rational move – for me. I moved not because of the country, but because of a person who happened to live here. I appreciate Helsinki and it’s unique mixture of nature and city. I mean, I live in a forest next to squirrels and deer, and still a 15-minute train ride away from the centre! Island hopping is my favorite pastime during the Finnish summer, and the illegally built Sompasauna run by volunteers is my new favorite spot. Finland is at its best when citizens fight for the things they love. It’s a pity I discovered Sompasauna so late, because they have to break it down to give way to apartment blocks. Same goes for the idyllic forest around my house. This trend is something that really worries me. Of course we have to find spots to welcome new Helsinkiians, but should it be at the cost of what makes Helsinki great?
Jeroen is blatantly talented at creating films. His humane approach to film-making allows his films to be incredibly relatable and extremely approachable – immersed with the notion of minimalism – thus capturing the great emotional medium of art in film-making. We hope to see more of him soon!