Interview: Rare Exports Director Jalmari Helander

Those of you who still haven’t seen director Jalmari Helander’s “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” are seriously missing out on one of the sharpest motion pictures of 2010. The film, which stars Jorma Tommila, Peeter Jakobi, and Onni Tommila, was released here in the States on October 25th, 2011, courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories. The distributor has gone above an beyond for this edition of the film, and the feature looks incredibly sharp and colorful on Blu-ray. Much like “Attack the Block” and “Super 8”, Helander’s holiday-themed chiller utilizes the “children in adventurous peril” scenario to great effect. I recently had the opportunity to toss a few questions in the director’s general direction, the answers to which you can find below.


Todd Rigney: What was the inspiration for the original “Rare Exports” short?

Jalmari Helander: I always wanted to do a movie about the REAL Santa. That was the main idea behind everything. It was my brother Juuso who had the brilliant idea of capturing and selling the Santas. I owe my brother a lot.

TR: Had you always envisioned the film as a full-length feature?

JH: No. The plan was to make three short films, but idea was getting bigger and bigger so I was forced to do a feature. And there is still a lot where that came from. Maybe a sequel some day?

TR: Did you have any difficulty shooting in such extreme conditions?

JH: Of course. The weather was very cold and it was dark. We had a lot of luck with the weather though. For examble the second scene in top of the mountain. The weather was perfect thank god to that. Every time we went to that mountain it was always foggy and very windy. But when the shooting day was, everything was so nice!

The main problem with the weather was the elves. Old naked men in freezing weather. It was so different planning the scenes when I was writing than actually on location. We had to make a lot of changes about the original plans. We did not want to kill the men for a heart attack.

TR: “Rare Exports” has an exceptional cast of young actors. Where did you find such talented kids?

JH: Onni who plays Pietari is my sisters son. So that was easy to find. The other boy was in another feature in Finland with Onni. So they knew each other and played well together. So I asked him.

TR: What films and/or directors inspired you as a filmmaker?

JH: Spielberg. E.T. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Shyamalan’s Unbreakable and The Signs. And maybe Harlin’s Cliffhanger!

TR: Are there any hopes for a “Rare Exports” sequel?

JH: I think so. I know what is going to happen on that film. It will be a total chaos when all the Santa’s are launched to the market that’s for sure.

TR: Finally, what projects do you currently have lined up?

JH: One project. My next feature. I am writing it now and hopefully we can start filming soon. It will be english language film and a BIG adventure!


Many thanks to Jalmari Helander for taking the time out of his insanely busy schedule to answer these questions. And for the love of God, people, check out “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” on Blu-ray. As strange as it sounds, I plan to watch it again around Christmas.