Under the Red Star, a fascinating docudrama about the cultural and political ferment centred around Port Arthur’s Finnish Labour Temple, will be shown at 7 pm on Thursday, September 29 at the Bay Street Film Festival in Thunder Bay. The film, directed by Kelly Saxberg and produced by Lakehead history professor Dr. Ron Harpelle, chronicles the story of the Finnish immigrants who built Canada’s largest labour hall and used it as a locus of their activities. The courage of these newcomers in the face of government and police crackdowns helped shape Canadian labour history. Under the Red Star melds fictionalized scenes with archival footage and photos to vividly recreate the lives and passions of these early twentieth-century activists.
The film, which was three years in the making, has dramatizations of key moments in the rise of Northwestern Ontario’s labour movement. These scenes were shot in Thunder Bay in the summer of 2010 with more than 200 extras making it one of the region’s largest film productions.
Movie screen shot from Under the Red Star (photo courtesy of Shebafilms)
Under the Red Star is a period piece performed in English and Finnish. The film includes appearances by Finnish actors Elena Leeve and Jussi Nikkilä. Elena Leeve is a two-time Jussi Award winner for Best Actress. The Jussi Award is the Finnish film industry’s most prestigious award and Elena is one of Finland’s biggest film stars. One of Jussi Nikkilä’s first film roles was in Kelly Saxberg’s Letters from Karelia and since then he has appeared in several award-winning films. Also appearing in a lead role is local actor Rauli Pohjolainen, who was born in Finland and has worked in theatres across Canada. Several other local performers, including some Lakehead faculty members, have key roles in the film. These familiar faces help make Under the Red Star a community experience.
All Bay Street Film Festival screenings will take place at The Finnish Labour Temple on 314 Bay Street. A complete listing of Bay Street Film Festival events and screenings can be found on the official Bay Street Film Festival Website.
To read more about Under the Red Star and to find out about other provocative films exploring contemporary and historical issues, visit the Shebafilms website.