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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 seriously.


English subtitle: 


Information for the Audience: 

Directors: Jari Kokko Writers: Jari Kokko Producers: Jari Kokko Key cast: Katja Minkkinen, Pekka Mustonen, Päivi Luomala, Susanna Puhakka, Mika Kalmi

Screenings / Awards: 
  • 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


Directed by: 
Jari Kokko
Writing credits: 
Jari Kokko
Pekka Mustonen, Susanna Puhakka, Mika Kalmi, Katja Minkkinen, Päivi Luomala
Produced by: 
Jari Kokko / Kinokokko Ky
Music by: 
Cleaning Women
Cinematography by: 
Saija Mäki-Nevala
Film Editing by: 
Katja Pällijeff
Production Design by: 
Elisa Pesonen
Other crew: 
Sound Design: Pinja Mustajoki
Release Date: 
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Official sites:
Total votes: 4871

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