"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: In the World

Monday, January 03, 2005

In the World

Mikko and his family
Originally uploaded by Free2beme.
The OALC in particular and Laestadians in general would make fascinating documentary subjects. Perhaps the reason PBS hasn't come knocking is because, well, who would agree to be interviewed or filmed?

Apparently Laestadian reticence did not stop Pia Andell, a Finnish film director, who made a lovely short film called Maailmassa (In the World) in 2002 using actors. I stumbled upon the title in a web search and requested a copy from the production company, then had it transferred to VHS (fortunately it already had subtitles in English).

What a discovery! The movie is beautifully photographed and its story deftly told through the voices of two men, Mikko and Sakari, both of whom were raised in large Laestadian families. Mikko remains in the faith, becomes a massage therapist and preacher, gets married, has 9 children and stays in the country. "Too curious" Sakari leaves, is rejected by his family, becomes a photographer and lives alone in Helsinki.

The translation into English is sometimes clumsy, but many of the phrases are pitch-perfect Laestadianese. Even the title is a familiar phrase. "In the world" is the equivalent of "unsaved."

Hearing the men explain their decisions, one feels compassion for both of them. It is easy to see why Mikko stayed and why Sakari left. (But how I wanted to reach out to Sakari, to alleviate his loneliness!)

I found myself dreaming of a new movie, with a similar story but from the point of view of two women: one who stays, marries at 17, has a dozen children. The other who leaves, goes to college, has a career, marries and has two children. Sisters, perhaps.

Hmmm. Anyone know a producer?!


  1. PBS occasionally broadcasts a documentary entitled "Born Hutterite". The Hutterites are another fundamental "religious" sect with roots in the midwest United States (South Dakota) and Canada. It's quite interesting. Some inside the sect are interviewed as well as one mother of several children who finally had the courage to leave. This woman's daughter says that those inside the sect believed her mother to be fine when she was in it, but then labelled her as "crazy" after she left - something to that effect. Sound familiar? When this mother had her hair cut for the first time in her life, she thought God would strike her down. How sad and senseless. It's an eye-opener. I would encourage everyone to watch it.

  2. Hey, it's cool the Maailmassa documentary has reached America! I saw it with a bunch of Firstborn Laestadian young kids when it was broadcast in Finland. The general opinion in that group was that it was kind of stupid, it was feared to promote stereotyped views on Laestadians and ex-Laestadians. It is of course cool that documentaries are made about Laestadians, but the danger is that if you pick up a Laestadian family and an ex-Laestadian you make people think that that's the way all Laestadian families/ex-Laestadians are like. Boring country life with a bunch of kids and almost no money is not the way all Laestadians live. And I think Sakari attributes the problems in his family too much to Laestadianism, which may create an impression that all Laestadian families have that kind of problems. In the end, I feel kind of sorry for both Mikko and Sakari, I don't think I could be happy if I was either one of them.


  3. Thanks for posting, Theoforos. Interesting observations. I agree that both of those guys are not to be envied, but I don't think there is anything to be feared in the movie, which like all good art is specific. Stereotypes are, by definition, the repeating of characteristics, and at least in America there is nothing to repeat. Laestadians remain unrepresented in our culture.

    In Finland, what books or movies have Laestadians in them?

  4. Well, yeah, I think you are right. Stereotype is maybe not the best word to use here, 'generalization' would fit better.

    Books and movies with Laestadians in them? There are many of them over here because Laestadians are a significant player in the society in the Nordic countries.

    There's one more documentary about Laestadians that I remember seeing recently. It's called 'Ainoa oikea usko' (=the only right faith), and it handles about the largest Laestadian group, the one that is called Laestadian Lutheran Church in America. There have been other documentaries, too, but I can't remember their names.

    During the last couple of years there have been two movies in the Finnish movie theaters with some connection to Laestadians. One is called "Pahat pojat" (=Bad boys) and is based on the story of four brothers who were raised in a very conservative group of Laestadians (a small group that broke with the Firstborn Laestadians in 1960s). The brothers became known for their several criminal acts, mostly they stole money from gas stations and banks... The movie doesn't tell that much about Laestadianism, but I think everyone with Laestadian upbringing can see some parallels to his/her own life as the boys are teased by others in school for being Laestadians etc.

    And the other one, which I haven't seen myself, is based on a book by Bengt Pohjanen, who is an ex-Laestadian himself (now an orthodox priest in Northern Sweden). I can't remember the name of the movie, but I think the book's name is "Populärmusik från Vittula" in Swedish.

    By the way, Bengt Pohjanen has written many books that have some connection to Laestadianism. You might want to take a look at his pages: http://www.sirillus.se

    There is also a less-known Firstborn Laestadian writer, Sylvi Peltoniemi, who has written three novels, and I think at least in two of them the main characters are Laestadians.

    This is just what I remember, the top of an iceberg, kind of...


  5. Thank you, Theoforos. I'm so sorry I don't know Finnish or Swedish, because it severely limits my access to the authors you've cited.

    I do have a copy of the book "Popular Music from Vittula" (by Mikael Niemi) and will try to find the movie.

    If you think of any others, let us know! Kittos.

  6. So sorry, I was wrong about the author of "Populärmusik från Vittula"... I guess the reason for my confusion is that Bengt Pohjanen and Mikael Niemi are both bilingual writers from the originally Finnish-speaking part of the Swedish Lapland.

  7. Arrgh, I forgot to sign again... :) The post above was written by Theoforos, which means that free2beme was right and Theoforos was wrong about the author of the mentioned book.


  8. Theoforo, have you seen the movie of Popular Music From VIttula?

  9. Haven't seen it yet, but I think it might still be going in some movie theaters. Maybe I should check it and go if they are still showing it. If not I'll have to wait for the dvd to come out.


  10. I've wanted to buy the movie Maailmassa for some time now. I found the information below. Did you order from the production house or the distribution co. listed below? I was baptized into the church but not raised within it since my father left. I'm interested in learning more.


  11. yes, I ordered it from the site you cite . . . good luck, and if you have any problems, let me know. Maybe I can start a Laestadian lending library!