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‘Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale’ is the sickest twist on Father Christmas since ‘Bad Santa’

Thirty-four-year-old Finnish director Jalmari Helander’s debut feature film ‘Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale’ is a wickedly funny horror-movie twist on the myth of Santa Claus. After a hugely successful run of festival screenings, the film is released in British cinemas this week. We met up with Helander when he was in London recently.

Tom Huddleston: How did you get started in movies?
Jalmari Helander: ‘I made some short films, the two ‘Rare Exports’ shorts (see below), plus a couple of others, and a lot of commercials. I worked in commercials for about eight years. But I’m glad I had the patience to wait until I had a good feature, an idea that worked. I always knew that I wanted to be a director. A lot of people didn’t think so, but I always did!’

Where did the initial ‘Rare Exports’ idea come from?
‘It was my brother’s idea. When I worked in a commercial company we had to make a corporate Christmas present for the clients, something to do with Christmas. My brother called me and asked to come over. He had an idea about a naked man with a long beard, eating berries in the forest, and someone shoots him with a tranquiliser gun. And I said, “I came here for that? Fuck you!” I went away, but about two hours later I was like, okay, that’s actually pretty good. And two days after that we’d written the first short.’

How did you find funding for the feature?
‘The original idea was to make a third short, but everyone was telling me to make a feature. So I started writing. It took two years, but when the script was ready it was quite easy to fund it. Finland makes something like ten feature films in a year, and there aren’t too many good ones. The movie didn’t cost too much. I knew my limits, so I wrote a story I knew we could do for a small budget. Its stupid to write something you won’t be able to do.’

What films inspired you while you were writing the script?
‘I watched John Carpenter’s “The Thing” a few times. Also “Close Encounters”, “ET” and “Signs”, films which involve normal families being interrupted by something supernatural. No one can really say what the genre of my film is, which is really nice. But that’s just the way I think.’

Where did you find your young lead actor, Onni Tomilla?
‘He’s my nephew. He’s also the son of the guy playing the father in the film, Jorma Tommila, who is married to my sister. I’ve done a lot of things with both of them. Onni is a very natural actor. Even when he was really young he remembered his directions really well, he always did it perfectly each time. He’s quite a crazy kid, every second of the time we’re not filming he’s just talking, talking, talking and as soon as I say action he’s totally in character. His father is a very good actor so maybe it’s in the blood.’

And where did you manage to recruit so many naked elderly men?
‘It’s easy in Finland! But we actually shot it in Norway. It was a Norwegian male voice choir. I don’t know why but they wanted to do it. They had to run inside after every take. We had what we called an elf-box, a really hot trailer where they could play cards and drink coffee, naked all the time. It’ll be great documentary material for the DVD. But we were in a remote place, far from anywhere, so we had privacy to do whatever we wanted.’

Are you planning to make ‘Rare Exports 2’?
‘I have an idea for the sequel, but I’m writing another movie first. It’s going to be a mixture of “Rambo” and “Home Alone”! I might do the sequel later on. I’ve had requests from Hollywood to make something there, but I want to do my own stuff, to have a bit more of a name before I go there. I don’t want to be anybody’s slave, or have ten guys telling me what to do. I like to do things my own way. I was even the production designer on this movie because I didn’t like anyone else’s ideas. There’s one version of everything, and that’s mine.’





Read our review of ‘Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale’ here

Author: Interview: Tom Huddleston



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