“Are you a horse person?” a Belgian stable owner asks Johanna, a young Finnish journalist who is looking into the discovery of a microchip in a baby’s meat patty at a daycare center in Helsinki. Only creator-director Auli Mantila’s own equestrian affiliations as a skilled farrier can partly explain one of the more singular entries for this year’s Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize: “Transportation.”
It’s a Scandinavian crime drama, but “computer-black,Mantila told the Nordisk Film & TV Fond newsletter, as it “takes place in broad daylight, involves people with no particular talent or trauma, and takes place in places that anyone can enter.”
It also tackles a massive but little-explored subject, turning on pan-European food fraud that involves three women: Marianne, a book bank loan executive forced to launder money from the earnings of a sinister food importing company; an insurance investigator verifying the disappearance of a border control veterinarian; and the indefatigable Johanna.
An original series from Finnish public broadcaster YLE, and part of its notable lineup of international co-productions, “Transport” stands out, as its short synopsis puts it, for its story of largely ordinary women under pressure from their authoritarian male bosses. to yield under in a corrupt or constraining reality. Here, women fight back.
Produced by Finns Miia Haavisto (“Tom of Finland”) and Tia Talli (“Nurses”) from Tekele for YLE, in co-production with Belgium’s Philippe de Schepper (“Black-Out”) and Helen Perquy from Jonnydepony (“Tabula Rasa “), “Transport” has been picked up for worldwide distribution by REinvent Studios in a deal announced at the end of last year’s Berlinale Series Market. It is also supported by the Nordic public broadcasters DR, RÚV, NRK and SVT as well as the Finnish Film Foundation, Screen Flanders, DPG Media, Belga Films Fund, Nordisk Film & TV Fond and Creative Europe.
“Shadow Lines” star Emmi Parviainen plays Johanna, Maria Heiskanen (“Everlasting Moments”) the wife and possibly widow of the missing custom official, and Pirkko Hämäläinen (“Devil’s Bride”) Marianne.
Showrunner “Transport” Mantila’s feature debut, “The Collector,” played in Venice in 1997, while her second, 2000s “Geography for Fear,” was selected for the Berlinale. “Silver Stars” won the Europa Prize for Best Drama Series in 2008.
Variety chatted with her ahead of the 2022 Gothenburg Film Festival, where the winner of the NFTF award will be announced during the festival’s TV Drama Vision on February 2.
Are you a horse lover? asks the owner of the Belgian team to the journalist Johanna in “Transport”. I have the impression that you like horses as a qualified farrier. Does this explain your return with your first work as a writer-director in 17 years?
Not really. Sure, I love being around horses, but as a film professional, I know my personal preferences aren’t enough to create an immersive story. During these 17 years, I worked with horses, but also on talent development, script consulting and production. I like it on the sidelines, but now that I have something worth saying, I don’t mind coming back to the front line.
The series features three women under pressure to give in to authoritarian male bosses. Is it a coincidence?
Well, these three bosses are just trying to get along with these three mavericks, who rightly piss off their bosses sometimes. I don’t blame these bosses – I just wish them luck.
An international crime thriller but, involving as producer Miia Haavisto put it Variety, “ordinary people under extreme pressure”, often to prove themselves on the job. Would you agree that this partly gives the series its unique character?
Maybe so, but I also think our show stands out because its suspense isn’t based on fear of violence. He doesn’t play with the idea of hurting people. I’m tired of violence and abuse, so from the start I wanted to challenge myself to find more than that.
What were your main guidelines for making the series?
Invisibility, relativity, inevitability. I wanted the show to feel like it would have happened even if me and the crew hadn’t been there. And as if it really could have happened to you, your family and your friends. As if it were a true story, which unfolds as you watch it. It’s probably the hardest thing ever – being invisible – but that’s what I love to do and see.
The series is a Belgian co-production. How did it happen?
I had a great team in Belgium. Die-hard, yet gentle, caring professionals with a quiet, hilarious sense of humor. I go back as soon as someone invites me.
“Transport” is made for YLE, which has just renewed “The Paradise”, whose first season was largely set on the Costa del Sol, has a pilot for “Story Hunters”, which is set in northern Norway , and “Emergency Unit”, which is set in the Himalayas. Do you feel that Finnish drama series are becoming more and more cosmopolitan?
Well, it’s not enough to shoot abroad to make a truly cosmopolitan series. Being truly international means finding stories that melt hearts all over the world. Therefore, you must dive deep within yourself and find the most human, vivid and relevant needs, desires and feelings. You don’t need to travel to be cosmopolitan – you just need to be human.