Behind the lights:
All blonde people should be shot

What to expect from a film that was filmed by a foreigner in my hometown, with a title that pretty much wants to destroy us Finns? Well, expect nothing and be positively surprised!

Stephen Sheehan spent five weeks in Lapua, filmed people and places, and put together an interesting, funny, and weird film, that makes you want to see it again. (I’ve watched it 5 or 6 times.)

The opening music makes me want to start dancing. This is good disco music from the 80’s! Then I see the Lapuans. Standing and walking around in the market square, staring at things. They look so grim!

Are we Finns this serious all the time? Oh, there’s the guitar player that used to be famous in the 70’s, there’s my friends parents and don’t they look old… And the lady in the orange t-shirt, she’s the only one laughing, but then the guy next to her is her new boyfriend.

I keep thinking: All pessimist people should be shaken and stirred and made to smile. But, as we are not supposed to discriminate, we need to let these people go on living their murky lives. I can even feel a warmth towards these gloomy looking citizens.

What follows then is a compilation of Monty Pythonesque scenes. There’s a dead fly with an American voice in the background commenting on a toilet aide for the obese followed by a chair ad. Comfort wipe! Hawaii chair! Teenagers commenting on a dead fish. I love this scene.

There’s also a scene that is very Finnish, and maybe universal. A guy is sitting on the toilet and starts hearing things. He puts a stethoscope on the wall and tries to listen: are blonde people talking in the next apartment?

What I didn’t really figure out were the mushrooms. The character grows them in his fridge, eats them, then defecates them. Is this trying to say that ultimately everything is shit? Then again, maybe it is.

What goes around, comes around. Earth to earth?

The scenes from the church to me reflect something that should be open and very loving, but that is actually a pile of dusty tradition, not very open to anyone. The Finnish church does not allow gay people to be married in churches or chapels. This is in accordance with the title of the film. Blondes should be shot and gay people should be banned from places of worship.

To sum up: I loved the film – it is strange, funny, surprising and at the same time very warm. Us people keep doing funny things. I think Sheehan displays a sort of love and understanding towards the people he is filming. And the ending scene, it was genius.

Tarja Kojola is a writer in Finland and Chief Editor of Lapuan Sanomat.

With Stephen Sheehan you just never know. You don’t know whether to turn off or look away prematurely (the impulse arises even in a Sheehan connoisseur such as myself). You don’t know how much you should be reading into it, or whether you should be reading anything into it at all, because the content of the piece is not actually in the piece itself, but in the observer.

Here, it starts with the title. Who are the blonde people, he is referring to and why on earth should they be shot? Is it a matter of judgement and generalisation? How often do we judge people by a common denominator, be it where they come from, what they call their god, what they wear when they go swimming, how they fold their toilet paper, or whether they are blonde? We do have a tendency to generalize and to judge. And to look away too quickly. We could, after all, realize that we were wrong. So each one of us could be the shooter. Or the blonde. Or a glitch in the simulation, for that matter.

For this film, Sheehan has been spying on people for us. He presents unsuspecting victims (some of them blonde, some not so much) for us to subconsciously judge. He also presents us with some big questions to ponder. Is the fish dead and what is that: death? What is life? And what is reality?

The three big questions in life, as Frank Zappa once put it:

Where do we come from?
Where are we going to?
What was that?

In this case it was Finnish Patriotic Music.

Just like our lives, Sheehans movie is full of strange loops. Toilet paper. Mushrooms. People chewing. Lights blinking. Mushrooms. White dots in the sky. Holes in a sink strainer. Us, judging people. Food consumption. Excretion. Mushrooms. Sausage. Things that go in circles.

Would we really lead more fulfilling lives if we realized that we are going to die? Or are the white dots in the sky just glitches in a simulation?

Life is a machine and the carousel of time sometimes is stuck at eleven seconds to seven minutes after seven. And we are going through the motions of acting out a script someone else has written for us. Maybe fate. Maybe god. Who may be a guy just like Stephen Sheehan. With a wig. Spying on us. Eternally eating and excreting mushrooms.

Religion could be so exciting – but no. Here it’s more blinking lights up above, more eating. Eating Jesus’ flesh. Or mushrooms?

And towards the end of this film, we realize – like we often do towards the end of our lives – that the door has always been open. We always had the chance to leave. The chance to stop the film. To change our lives. Nobody actually forces us to sit there and watch, to act out the script, to keep eating the mushrooms. But often we do. Until we get shot. By a film, for example. Such as this one.

Tommi Brem from Ulm, Germany, is a curator at Griesbadgalerie and at the Stadthaus in Ulm. He also collects contemporary art.

Image courtesy the artist.

Behind the lights: All blonde people should be shot, Kulttuurikeskus Vanha Paukku, Lapua, Finland.

1 August – 2 October 2016.

Published 12.09.2016 by James Schofield in Reviews

1,023 words