The Finnish dramatic thriller film Miami premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Co-written and directed by Zaida Bergroth (The Good Son), it’s an intense and richly complex film that addresses the relationship between two estranged sisters now reunited. Angela (Krista Kosonen) is an exotic dancer and owes money to the mob. Inadvertently and desperately she pulls younger, naive Anna (Sonja Kuittinen) into this dark and dangerous world.
I had the pleasure to sit down with Bergroth to discuss the making of the film, family, religion, and why she uses exotic dancing in the film.
Pamela Powell (PP): The concept of sisters, crime and exotic dancers is certainly unusual. What was the impetus for this story?
Zaida Bergroth (ZB): Many years ago there was this wave of scandals that involved young women, usually show dancers, and some famous public figures. I got interested in the media reaction because these girls were ridiculed and looked down upon and they received so much hate…then I had the idea of making a story of sisters because I myself have three sisters. I wanted to tell a complex story… but also an exciting and intense story about sisters’ relationships…I thought it would be nice to give that role of the protagonist to that type of a show dancer woman [to] just to try see the world from her point of view.
PP: Tell me about the aspect of the relationship of sisters in particular.
ZB: The most important thing for me in this film from the very beginning was this question: What do you do when you love somebody who is charismatic and brings you all this joy and light into your life that you don’t want to let go but at the same time they are dangerous to you? All those emotions— admiration, jealousy, competition, neediness— and the fact that you want somebody to be the answer to your problems… what if they are not up to your expectations? We have many stories about brothers that are very complicated, but this time I wanted to tell a story about women, especially sisters.
PP: Ironically, Angela is religious. Can you tell me about this aspect?
ZB: There was a show dancer in Finland that was religious and that lingered in my mind and I wanted to see what we could come up with and for Angela [religion is] a safety net…she doesn’t have to take responsibility because somebody [else] always does.
PP: Tell me about using the world of exotic dancing and somehow you don’t objectify these women like every other movie does.
ZB: I think before the shoot, I was very interested in how we would be able to make the dancing scenes so that they would be the subjects, not the objects. Usually when we see exotic dancing scenes, we have this typical gaze to them, to get excited. With this [story], I wanted them to be sexy and I wanted them to own the stage, but I wanted them to have the power…Every scene where there’s dancing, there’s a reason…It has to push the story [forward]. This was a challenge, but a very nice challenge to try to change that typical gaze.
PP: Do you accomplish this with camera angles?
ZB: In the first scene, when we see [Angela] dancing, she is this magnetic, charismatic wonderful creature, but it’s through [Anna’s] eyes. So we are looking at her through the little sister’s admiration. She’s not looking at this dancer to get aroused…We don’t even see the audience. I love the scene when they are dancing on stage, this young guy is behind the DJ desk and this is where it’s finally reversed to me…The guy is there to please her and to dance.
PP: As this is a Finnish film, do you see gender equity when it comes to women in the director’s chair?
ZB: It’s almost 50-50 when the Finnish Film Foundation gives the grants for script writing, but something happens there because it’s mostly men who still get their productions done. But this year is a record year. There are more films coming from female directors than ever before. It’s 40% of feature films are directed by women. It’s 40-60, it’s not 50-50, but it’s pretty good…Things need to be discussed and kept on the table.
© Pamela Powell (9/15/17) FF2 Media
Bottom Photo: L to R: Krista Kosonen, Zaida Bergroth, Sonja Kuittinen (MIAMI interview at TIFF)
Photo Credit: © Sami Kuokkanen