Experiencing Interruptions?

The Canaries

Sadly, individuals suffering from mold sickness are often still marked as nothing more but neurotic troublemakers, chronic complainers, or just plain mad. But which one of the two is madder in the end: those who fell ill or the world that caused it?

Hundreds of thousands of Finns are exposed to mold and moisture microbes every day. Many fall ill, some of them severely.

The Canaries is a documentary about people who have fallen sick as a result of exposure to poor indoor air quality caused by toxic mold microbes. Because of the illness the protagonists have had to withdraw from what once used to be their everyday life. The
outside world carries a risk of exposure and has therefore become a constant threat. What used to be home has turned into a prison and isolation has become a safe haven.

Detective seargant Pekka Mustonen fell ill in a new Police Department of Jyvaskyla. Occupational Health Nurse, Paivi Luomala at her workplace in a Health Center. Katja Minkkinen fell ill at work and because of that, she was was illegally fired. Artists
Susanna Puhakka and Mika Kalmi spent years moving from one moldy appartment to another. All protagonists are united not only by mold, but by that fact, that the exposure and falling ill could have been avoided, if someone would have taken responsibility and cared for his fellow citizen.

The documentary follows the lives of the protagonists for one year, from summer 2013 to summer 2014. It shows how the illness with its physical symptoms is only one part of the problem. Getting sick has devastated the protagonists' lives and social relationships.
Internet and social media are, if not the only, their most important form of social interaction and connection to the outside world. Additional difficulties for the protagonists, come from the irresponsibility and ridicule frequently demonstrated by
society and the public.

The protagonists have already moved past the initial shock stage of the illness. They have created their own means of survival in order to carry on with their lives. To do this they have had to look deep into themselves to find out what it is that they really want
to do in their lives, within the limitations set by the illness, of course. This might not always be possible for all of them but even unrealistic dreams have a certain power.

Today, people who have fallen ill due to exposure are like the canaries that in the past used to be taken down to the mines. When the bird started falling ill, people knew that the air was toxic and it was time to leave. Only today no one is taking the signs

  • Jari Kokko
    Cry Tears of Happiness, The Perfumer, Sentenced to life
  • Jari Kokko
  • Jari Kokko
  • Katja Minkkinen
    Key Cast
  • Pekka Mustonen
    Key Cast
  • Päivi Luomala
    Key Cast
  • Susanna Puhakka
    Key Cast
  • Mika Kalmi
    Key Cast
  • Saija Mäki-Nevala
  • Pinja Mustajoki
    Sound design
  • Cleaning Women
  • Project Title (Original Language):
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Health, Politics, Social, Enviroment, Family, human rights
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 18 minutes 28 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    June 12, 2015
  • Production Budget:
    123,000 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    hd video
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Theatrical screening
    Tampere, Finland
    June 12, 2015
    Finnish premiere
  • Theatrical screening
    Oulu, Finland
    August 11, 2015
  • heatrical screening
    Lappeenranta, Finland
    August 15, 2015
  • Theatrical screening
    Lahti, Finland
    August 19, 2015
  • Theatrical screening
    Kuopio, Finland
    November 23, 2015
  • Theatrical screening
    Viitasaari, Finland
    August 26, 2015
  • Theatrical screening
    Turku, Finland
    August 30, 2015
  • Theatrical outdoor screening
    Helsinki, Finland
    September 9, 2015
  • Theatrical screening
    Äänekoski, Finland
    September 16, 2015
  • Television broadcast
    YLE, Finland
    October 12, 2015
  • AegeanDocs
    September 28, 2016
  • 11th Red Rock Film Festival
    Cedar City, Utah
    United States
    November 16, 2016
    North American Premiere
  • Barcelona Human Rights Film Festival
    November 30, 2016
    Spanish Premiere
Distribution Information
  • Kinokokko Ky
    Country: Finland
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Jari Kokko

Jari Kokko was born in 1961 in Viitasaari, Finland. He studied documentary film directing in Moscow Film School (VGIK) 1985-90. Besides hie own film projects he has
worked as a editor, producer, photographer and all-around man in several different kinds of film projects. Right now he lives in Helsinki and works at his own production company, Kinokokko.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

I first became aware of the myriad problems related to poor indoor air quality when my wife got sick in a mold-infested workplace. It was a shock to realize how widely-spread the problem was. It is not only about medicine, construction techniques, or microbiology but the issue is as broad and complex as life itself.

After my wife got sick, I experienced first-hand that for those who fall ill, often the worst aspect is when others don’t believe them, belittling their experience. Employers and authorities seek to cover and conceal the problems rather than taking responsibility. There are several reasons for this, such as lack of information, financial factors, fear of stigmatization, and surely also the worry about one’s career prospects. Solving the problems related to poor indoor air quality will not be possible until the seriousness of the issue is recognized and those affected are no longer stigmatized as having mental problems. This was my main motivation to decide to make “The Canaries”. Presenting all the issues related to the origins, effects and solutions of the problem would not be possible in one, or ten films. Fortunately there are researchers and journalists to do this.

The problem of poor indoor air quality is one of the many symptoms of the neoliberal political agenda negatively affecting people worldwide. One aspect is the chemicalization of our environment. For example, chemicals that are harmful to human beings are frequently used in building materials. For this reason we talk about poor indoor air quality, as mold is but one component in a complex phenomenon in which different chemicals and moisture microbes interact. Putting maximizing profits before quality and people’s wellbeing, results in poor constructing and problems of indoor air quality. Even new buildings may therefore be unusable. The same attitude that prioritizes profits also reflects in the way those who fall ill are treated. Caring is not in fashion in today’s Finland.

Fortunately there has been some progress since the idea of the film emerged in 2012. The number of people suffering from the illness or the number of contaminated buildings has not decreased, but rather the contrary. However, awareness of the situation has grown and this has had an effect on public attitudes. Still, the work to solve the problem is only starting. In the end, we are facing a change of values and an entire life style.

P.S. Maybe it`s irony of life, but after finishing the film, I got sick, too.