Oscars: Finland Selects 'Tom of Finland' for Foreign-Language Category

Tom of Finland - Still 1-H 2017
Courtesy of Helsinki Filmi

Dome Karukoski's story of artist Touko Laaksanon, designer of early gay icons, has already attracted international attention.

Finland has selected Dome Karukoski's Tom of Finland as its candidate for best foreign-language film Oscar consideration.

The story of the life of artist Touko Laaksanon, who created and drew early gay icons under the name Tom of Finland, has already attracted international attention and won a FIPRESCI prize at Sweden's Gothenburg film festival. It is also shortlisted for the European Film Awards this year.

Finland's Oscars selection committee, which is made up of Finnish film professionals, said Monday that Tom of Finland was a "beautiful portrait of one of the most internationally famous Finns." The committee added that the Finnish Film Foundation said "the film is a wonderfully designed and shot period piece," and Finnish actor Pekka Strang in the lead plays a role the committee commended for his "interpretation of Touko Laaksonen's unique life."

Scripted by Aleksi Bardi, Tom of Finland is a love story told from a Finnish perspective against the historic global struggle of the homosexual community for equal human rights.

Framed through the perspective of the secret drawings of muscular and uninhibited gay men Laaksonen draws to amuse himself and his friends in the bleak and homophobic environment of post-war Finland, the story follows the artist to Los Angeles, where his works become hugely popular and icons of the fledgling gay rights movement.

The Hollywood Reporter's critic Stephen Dalton describes the film as a skillful biopic, though it exhibits some sanitization, the director and writer being "surprisingly coy about depicting both male nudity and gay sex" and careful to sidestep "Laaksonen's controversial interest in Nazi soldiers, who provided some of his early erotic experiences."

Tom of Finland was produced by Aleksi Bardy, Mila Haavisto and Annika Suckdorff. Protagonist Pictures is handling international sales.

Finland is a regular contender for the Oscars; in 2015, Klaus Haro's Cold War thriller The Fencer made the December shortlist.