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Introducing HEFFI - Helsinki Education Film Festival International

Helsinki Education Film Festival International (HEFFI)

HEFFI is designed specifically to improve the education and learning experience of the next generation through films and videos.

1. Can you tell us briefly, the story of HEFFI?

Ricky: HEFFI started because of a need. We realized that people are more drawn to videos. As everybody has noticed, even children are attracted and attached to videos all the time. So, we thought, let's bring that into education. Let's use film-making as the educational tool. Since we (Ricky and Michael) have been in the film-making business for some time now, it was a smooth transition, an easy process. We saw that there is a need for this film festival, and our objective is to educate the new generation through films.

I met Michael in class (we are both students of Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, which is an international school). Michael is studying Entrepreneurship. I'm in a program called 'International Sales and Marketing'. I heard that he was also into film-making and had plans close to my ideas. So I approached him and asked if he wanted to join HEFFI. We started last year and got very good at working together.

2. Helsinki Education Film Festival International is an annual festival but what does the festival include and when is it going to be held?

Ricky: HEFFI is based in Helsinki, but not confined to Helsinki. Last year, it was held at the Caisa Cultural Center in Kallio. At the same time, we had workshops at different locations such as the Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, Pasila and Porvoo Campuses, and NewCo Helsinki, associated with the Helsinki Government.

This year, the festival will be held in the last week of September; the tentative date is Sunday 27th. We will again have multiple venues. Screenings will be held at different schools and colleges and we will have the main screening in Helsinki. The program is not ready yet but will be announced soon. We have collaborators from different parts of the world who are interested in coming and participating. There will be multiple screenings and events, workshops, and even cultural activities. We will announce a precise program of various activities soon.

HEFFI is about education, and that is a vast topic. It can be connected to pedagogy, film-making, cultural, such as dance, etc.. anything related to education will be covered. It can also be related to business.

3. How is this year's festival different from the event you organized last year?

Ricky: In a way, this year will be bigger. We have now collaborated with Global Business Forum International, and they have a big following. And also, we are communicating with different academic schools, and so it will be more significant too. This year HEFFI is not just over one weekend; it will be one or two weeks of activities.

Michael: Screenings will be more spread out this year because last year we had only two days to hold events and screenings. So, we had quite a lot, like a marathon of films, but this year we can spread it out more. Therefore, people don't need to commit the whole day and they can plan better to see different films in different venues.

4. Who are the audience? Who are you interested in attracting?

Ricky: Everybody interested in the development of education. Everybody who wants to learn, not only kids and students, but adults too. Because there is always something to learn. Basically, anything and anybody concerned with education and learning.

5. How can someone be a participant or get involved with HEFFI? What should they do?

Michael: People can help organize events, workshops, and film screenings. There is no limit on what they can do. Especially now that the event is getting bigger, we need more support, more volunteers, and more collaborators, because we believe it will become more prominent.

6. Does HEFFI itself make films, or are you focusing on making the annual event?

Ricky: We are both filmmakers, so yes, we make films. We use HEFFI as a platform for our films. My films last year were: 'Beyond Hip Hop', which is a film about finding the real definition of Hip Hop dance, and 'Keep it Reel', which is a film about the history and development of Irish dance in Finland.

We are thinking of showing these two films again to dance enthusiasts if we can find a suitable venue and time during the festival.

Michael: But those are separate from HEFFI, that is us as individuals or our other company; HEFFI is a platform to show them, HEFFI is not producing them.

Education and Study by Foreigners in Finland
Photo by Juha Roisko

7. What are the opportunities in participating in this kind of event?

Ricky: The platform. The opportunity for filmmakers is that they have a chance to meet educators here, to have an audience here, and also to meet other filmmakers from around the world. Finland is known for education, so it is advantageous for filmmakers to be here and their films to be accepted here. It is a platform to be seen and to be heard.

And for us, the friendships that we build, the networks we make - we learn from each other, and from other filmmakers. It is a multilateral opportunity.

8. What are the challenges in organizing this kind of event?

Michael: There can be so many, for example, timing. In summer in Finland, nobody works, so we need to consider that and contact people at the right time.

Ricky: It is always difficult to organize these kinds of events. Challenges are the budget, the program, creating the team, making the program, and the financial side. Last year, we had a little bit of help from individuals and we funded it from our own pockets. It is OK as we believe in our mission, and now, more and more people are discovering us.

9. If anyone wants to use your films, to show in schools or their area, what should they do? Is permission required and must they inform you first? Do you conduct or support organizing of such screenings?

Ricky: We support that. Interested parties should contact us and organize it with us. We can screen films in academic places. Our contract with filmmakers gives us permission to do that and it is also beneficial for filmmakers to have them shown.

10. You have many films from HEFFI 2019 on your website. Can you please tell us more about it? For example, which film was more successful or liked? What feedback did you get from the audience and participants? Are your films suitable for any age?

Ricky: We had lots of good films last year. To mention a few:

  • Andrea Baroni from Italy with his film 9 Out of 10 (9 su 10)

  • Yujiro Seki from Japan with his film Carving the Divine – Buddhist Sculptures of Japan

  • Gary Janks is South African living in the United Kingdom. His film is Chasing Mandela's Rainbow

Michael: Last year, children's films were screened at the beginning of HEFFI. We then screened all the other films. Some subjects are more advanced and not suitable for children.

Ricky: Last year, we determined the film screening order according to age suitability. This year, we are still contemplating, since we will have more places to show films, so we could do it according to the subject, or again by age.

When we have screenings at the theater, we should consider having films for children in one block so that if parents take their children, they know during that block of time the films will be age-appropriate. Some films will have a subject matter that is unsuitable for children so, we will consider that. It also will depend on what types of films are submitted this year.

To finish, anything you would like to share with our readers? Any inspiring stories for our readers about your work and experiences? Any time you overcame a challenge and what lesson you learned from it?

Ricky: To me, the most inspiring thing is the filmmakers. Such good ones who came to us, to Finland, to show their films and talk about them. It is very inspiring for us to know that they have the same mindset, that they recognize the need and the power of films as an educational tool. They said that they had never seen a festival like this before. Nowadays, films are used mainly to entertain, whilst the concept of a film festival on education is more aligned with traditional views, like a 'virtual classroom'.

Anything is education. You can learn from anything. I think this is what makes HEFFI different from other film festivals.

We are open, and we are sensitive as well. As long as there is a message conveyed, we will accept it. Therefore, the most inspiring thought for me is that more and more people are searching for the real meaning of education, which does not need to be linear, traditional, or visual, but can be a combination or neither. Whatever it takes for people to learn, that should be the focus of educators.


Michael: We are accepting submissions until July. Last year, some filmmakers wanted to come but they didn't have enough time to get funding. So we want filmmakers to have plenty of time to get any type of funding in order to come to the screening or to do the workshops.

Last year we rushed everything. We started late and we didn't want to wait for another year to start., so we just jumped and did it. It was a success; filmmakers had a great time. One of them said that he couldn't believe this was the first year, and it seemed this festival was going on for many years. Submit your film to


Ricky: It just started in Helsinki, it is Helsinki based, but it has the potential to go around the world. We plan to hold HEFFI in different countries. Now I am in communication with some more significant film festivals. If they can come to HEFFI, it is possible to go global.



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