Fencer, The: Klaus Haro’s Finnish Entry for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar

Klaus Haro’s previous three films were all nominated for Academy Awards.

“If we made it to the shortlist it would be an incredible honor, and to win an Oscar would be such a big thing.  Some indie filmmakers don’t rate the Oscars, but I have always held them in great respect. Those people who vote for the best foreign language films really do love movies,” says the  Finnish director, who speaks fluent English.

For The Fencer Haro returns to the dark era of Stalinism. Set in Soviet-occupied Estonia, it is the story of a man on the run from the secret police who takes a job as a fencing teacher at a remote rural school.

When his enthusiastic young charges are offered the chance of taking part in a competition in Leningrad he is forced to chose between their ambition and risking the risk of arrest and imprisonment if the authorities recognize him.

“This was by far the most challenging films I’ve made; up to 50 children on set at one time; fencing scenes to choreograph and just the noise generated by the kids, who were all fantastic, was a new dimension,” Haro says.

Like his earlier works, The Fencer is essentially a story about parents and children.

Haro’s fascination with film goes back to his childhood, growing up in a small town east of Helsinki not far from the Russian border.

In the 1980s, all the other kids had VCRs at home, but Haro’s household was more old-fashioned.  Klaus had to wait until movies came to the cinema in Helsinki before he could satisfy his yearning.

The director would sneak a tape recorder into the theater to record a film’s dialog to replay at home.  He’d play back the audio recordings of favorites like Spielberg’s E.T., Hal Ashby’s Being There and Zhang Yimou’s The Road Home, seeing the action in his mind’s eye. They became his first film school and inspired him to tell his own stories.

But every film remains a struggle, Haro says.  “I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with an idea for a film and say….’damn’.. and my wife will ask what is wrong, and I’ll sigh and say,’I just had an idea for a new movie.'”