© MFA/Filmagentinnen

Tom of Finland
Finland/Sweden/Denmark/Germany/Iceland/U.S.A. 2017

Opening 5 Oct 2017

Directed by: Dome Karukoski
Writing credits: Aleksi Bardy, Dome Karukoski, Mark Alton Brown, Noam Andrews, Kauko Röyhkä
Principal actors: Jakob Oftebro, Werner Daehn, Pekka Strang, Lauri Tilkanen, Jimmy Shaw

Touko Laaksonen (Strang), born 1921, rose to second lieutenant in the Finnish army during World War II. After the war, he returned to an unfriendly country where homosexuality was a crime. He lived with his sister Kalja (Jessica Grabowsky); both were talented illustrators for an advertising agency. He had a life-time relationship with male dancer Veli Nipa Mäkinen (Tilkanen), a secret which not even his family knew about until his death in 1991. He began illustrating muscular, good-looking, gay men, for his friends. Some of these homoerotic illustrations, published under the pseudonym Tom of Finland, appeared in a body-building magazine Physique Pictorial in Los Angeles in 1950.

Twenty years later, his drawings were well-known around the world and today they are in art museums for all to see. He is credited with furthering the Gay Revolution in the 1970s. His “men” were strong, muscular, and proud or as he said, “motorcycle clubbers without the motorcycle” – not girly wimps at all. Leather became stylish. He inspired such artists as Freddy Mercury, Andy Warhol, Madonna, and Jean Paul Gaultier.

Director Karukoski said, “Touko and this film show how a single person, armed only with a pencil, can change the world.”  The Tom of Finland company was founded in 1979, the Foundation in 1984. Nowadays there is even Tom of Finland fashion available online.

The film is recommended to everyone regardless of sexual choice, not only for its interesting Finnish actors, but also, as historical background on the progress of gay rights. Tom of Finland opens in Germany just a few days after marriage between gay partners becomes legal in this country: October 1, 2017. We’ve come a long way. (Becky Tan)

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