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Vieno Järventausta,

Lauri Julkunen,

Ida Vesterinen

A satchel fortuitously found at the back of a shed, once belonging to a child that died in the late 1940s. The excavation of its contents soon becomes a personal, historical quest: what do a mid-century child’s ordinary objects tell us? What does our own fascination with these very objects tell us about ourselves? The filmmakers show the unpacking effort, with close-ups on hands that position the objects on the table, unfold the papers, turn the pages. Erroneous hypotheses are ventured as plausible before being dismissed. One obliquely sees the imprint of past times upon a life, as well as how the historian’s job is to shine a light on these traces.

Nathan Letoré

You explain the starting point for the film, in the discovery of ayoung boy’s satchel . Could you give us more context for this discovery, and the process that lead to you making a film based on it ?

We have known each other for some time now. The bag was found by Lauri from his grandmother’s shed around ten years ago. The bag and its original owner were part of Lauri’s family history and at the same time an article of interest concerning his research topics as a historian. This dynamic was intriguing to all of us. Ida’s research and her pedagogic work have revolved around the question of historical knowledge and how it’s formed and created. This has been a driving factor and it is also the underlying current of the film.

The catalytic occasion was an evening in 2018, when the three of us were discussing the bag and the objects it contains. We found a mutual interest in how in history research objects and the material world in general are subordinate to language – meaning how objects and matter are in a sense translated to language, losing and diluting the meanings and knowledge they mediate as reifications of the social, bodily world we inhabit.

Your film shows us all three of you talking, sometimes around a table, sometimes on the internet, to discuss hypothese on the discoveries you made. How did the three of you work together, and why did you decide to film these interactions?

Because the main topic of the film is historical research as such, we felt compelled to make the filmmaking process transparent to the audience, the film is reflective in all its layers. The three of us approached the film from slightly different perspectives: Vieno as a filmmaker and Lauri and Ida as historians. From the start Vieno wanted Lauri and Ida to be involved in almost all aspects of filmmaking. At the beginning we worked on segments and timelines, later Vieno drafted edits with placeholder voice over etc. so we all could see how different ideas work out. We wanted to be equal when making decisions, and during the later stages of production it truly actualized; the unavoidable disagreements were untangled together and the film really turned out to be a fruitful and eye opening collaboration between art and research.

You also choose to include mistaken assumptions in order to correct them later on. Why this decision ?

This was a conscious decision, a plot device of sorts, which we formulated at an early stage. The idea is that as the historian is making assumptions that later turn out wrong, at the time they are of course not aware of the fact they are indeed wrong. We wanted to convey this moment and the moment of revelation of misconception to the audience. This is something that is possible in film – as its form is chronological – but not in academic publications.

The ending credits revealed that you interviewed members of the boy’s family, notably his sister. Why did you choose not to include these interviews in your film ?

We wanted to keep the focus of the film on the artifacts and the interpretations we make of them. While we wanted to somehow make explicit the process of interpretation, we did not want to make a film-version of a research report. We do not show interviews, but we also do not, for instance, reference research articles or ideas that we nonetheless use to form the frameworks from which we approach and discuss the schoolbag. We wanted to make sure the artifacts had enough space to interact with the viewer, to allow the viewer to make interpretations of their own. In line with the idea of making explicit the process of interpretation, we also wanted to underline the fact that what is shown are specifically our interpretations: adding more voices to the film could have obscured that. Moreover, the interviews we did were quite informal, and both we and the boy’s sister (Lauri’s grandmother) preferred the interviews to serve only as background material rather than being used as such in the film.

Interview by Nathan Letoré


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Technical sheet

Finland / 2023 / 58’

Production: Vieno Järventausta (Vieno Järventausta)