Private Project

When school broke out of prison

This is a 60-minute documentary film about community spirit, voluntary work and a fight for the right to live in rural areas.

When the first elementary schools were started in Finland over 100 years ago, no pupil was supposed to have more than a 5-kilometer walk to the nearest school. Now children living in rural areas can expect to spend up to 2,5 hours a day at school taxis and buses. Finland has been closing its village schools since the 60s and there are no signs for the end of this process. In the same time the Finnish educational system is glorified globally.

This is the other side of the success story. A group of parents and village activists living in a village called Halmeniemi in Lakeland Finland chose to start a fight for their kids rights to go to a school close by. Prior to the school fight, activists made a successful campaign to attract new families to the village.

For the last two years (2006-2007) the school was called the Halmeniemi Free Village School and it was run on a voluntary basis. In this documentary film, a local group of activists shares their stories about finding new families, fundraising events, operating the school and efforts for obtaining an independent school status. This school fight interested researchers, journalists and sponsors. A new pedagogical invention, the pedagogy of joy for one-teacher schools, was developed by Juha Juurikkala who was teaching for two years without pay. At one point a Polish journalist came to write about "talkoot", the Finnish concept for voluntary work for your community. This encouraged a group of 8 Polish scout girls to travel by train over the Baltics to come and work for the school activists in summer 2007.

All the music was composed and performed by Lahjomattomat band that was created for the fundraising activities and recorded 3 LPs and a seperate single record. The core band consists of Vesa Vuopala who was teaching at Halmeniemi school for two years prior to the fight, an academic farmer Mika Mattila and construction engineer Tapani Heiskanen who spends his holidays at his cabin in the village.

The school was closed down in May 2007. Ten years after this film had its local premiere for the core team in April 2017. The film is a part of the official Finland 100 years programme.

Director Päivi Kapiainen-Heiskanen wrote the script and shot footage over the years for this production mostly with her first generation digital miniDV video cameras.

  • Päivi Kapiainen-Heiskanen
    The Reindeer belong to the Wind (several screenings at national and international film festivals)
  • Päivi Kapiainen-Heiskanen
  • Päivi Kapiainen-Heiskanen
  • Harri Räisä
    The Reindeer belong to the Wind
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    Kun koulu vapautui vankilasta
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    societal documentary
  • Runtime:
    59 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    April 30, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    13,000 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
    Black & White and Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Distribution Information
  • Osuuskunta Mikkelin Mediaali
    Country: Finland
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Päivi Kapiainen-Heiskanen

Päivi Kapiainen-Heiskanen is a Finnish doc film director and producer with background in journalism, cross media and project management. She has a master degree in journalism and has studied multiple languages. She works as a CEO of production company Mikkelin Mediaali Ltd and continues to do journalistic projects for various distribution channels.

Her four doc films give grassroot insights to Finnish society. Her first film The Reindeer belong to Wind (40 min, 2016) lets the indigenous Sámi people up in Lapland tell the world about the challenges they are facing with land use policies. When School broke out of Prison film shows how small schools are being closed down in rural areas and how activists in a tiny village run a school of their own for two years on voluntary basis. Toyota and Windbreaker is a doc film about a brave woman entrepreneur who wants to develop her nursing home company even if international chains are knocking on her door wanting to buy it. All four films have been screened at international film festivals and have received awards.

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Director Statement

In my four doc films I have given voices to people who are seldom heard in mainstream media. I felt that these stories needed to be told.

When school broke out from prison is a 60-minute documentary film about community spirit, voluntary work and a fight for the right to live in rural areas. An over 100-year Halmeniemi Village School was run for the last 2 years on voluntary basis.

As it happens, this was my elementary school for four years in my childhood. My brothers live in the village and my family has a summer cabin there so I had a chance to watch closely the process of running the school on a voluntary basis. When I started gathering material with simple miniDV cameras, it did not occur to me that I would be making a film out of the material several years later.

My motto: better a low budget than no budget at all.