What if George Washington or Winston Churchill was portrayed by a black actor? What if Malcolm X or Nelson Mandela was portrayed by a white actor? Would it matter to you?
Gustaf Mannerheim is a national hero in Finland and he is now portrayed by Kenyan actor Telley Savalas Otieno in a new low budget movie shot in Kenya. The reactions to "The Marshal of Finland" have been strong and they have divided the nation into two camps. Some think that it's unacceptable that a black actor plays the role of a white person, others have taken the time to see the artistic sides of it all and thinks that it's OK.
The explanation is simple. The movie is about a man telling a group of Kenyan children about Mannerheim. What the viewer see is how those children picture the story, and in their minds the man is black since that's how they naturally picture people.
I like history and I dislike when people twist facts to make movies or books. I often find myself grumbling over things in movies that are not historically correct. I'm often fine with it when the movie is presented as fiction, such as "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter", it's clearly not a historically correct movie. "The Patriot", "Braveheart", "300" and "Pearl Harbour" are on the other hand movies that have made me shake my fist and roll my eyes. If you claim to portray history then the least you can do is to get it right.
In the case of the Mannerheim movie it doesn't matter how the actor looks, the maker clearly says that it's an outsiders perspective that's portrayed. What matters is if the teller of the story show the historical facts correctly. That, on the other hand is something I've not seen discussed.
The Marshal of Finland
Funded by the Finnish Broadcasting Company the movie brings you an outsider's perspective to the Marshal Mannerheims life. The film has been carried out mainly by
Kenyans. Directed by Gilbert Lukalian. Marshal Mannerheim acted by Telley
Savalas Otieno (Kenya). Movie producer Erkko Lyytinen says that for Finland it's nationally very important thing that this first Mannerheim film will be completed. Premiere will be in late September.
Poll made by finnish magazine (Iltalehti) tells that 90% of finnish people will not watch this movie. Director of the movie has also received lots of hatefull feedback.