Director Arto Halonen returns to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on his second consecutive year, to premiere his dramatized documentary Back Towards Light (Takaisin valoon) in the US as it competes in the Social Justice Competition.

Back Towards Light premiered internationally at the Manaki Brothers Film Festival in North Macedonia in 2019.  In Finland - the film’s country of origin - Back Towards Light attracted huge attention and was one of the most watched documentary films on YLE, the Finnish Broadcasting Company. A book of the same name was also published to accompany the film.

Back Towards Light shows us the journey of a 25-year-old Finnish woman who becomes a victim of human trafficking and goes through an unimaginable journey to stay alive, find safety and maintain her sense of self.

The film takes a look into the dark world of human trafficking while telling the story of a survivor bringing her life back together. Marissa believes that one can find a way back into light after a traumatic experience, if only one doesn’t hold on to the anger and resentment.  

The film mixes both documentary and fiction narrative styles. The interviews heard in the film are authentic and the situations described in them are dramatized by actors Stella Kylä-Liuhala, Kiumars Zarei, Henri Tuominen, Nora Löfving-Lihtonen, Kerli Kyllönen and Pihla Maalismaa. The film was produced by Arto Halonen from Art Films Production and Timo Lahtinen from the Danish production company Smile Entertainment.

Marissa Jaakola – the woman whose journey the films focuses on – was unreasonably sentenced to foreclosure because of the huge amount of debt that had accumulated due to the crimes committed against her. Thanks to private donors, settlements and money arranged with the aid of the film and Art Films Production, in fall 2019, she was relieved of the debts, totaling $ 70.000 by then, and will now attend the festival as well.

In 2019 Halonen attended the SBIFF with his feature film Murderous Trance, competing in the Nordic Cinema Competition. The film is based on the true story of a remarkable series of hypnosis crimes that took place in Denmark in the 1950s.  Among the cast members are actors Pilou Asbæk (Game of Thrones, Ghost in the Shell, Overlord), Josh Lucas (Ford v Ferrari, A Beautiful Mind, Sweet Home Alabama), Rade Šerbedžija (Downton Abbey, Eyes Wide Shut) and Sara Soulié (Nymphs, Other Girls).

 In the US the film was released in theaters in November 2019 and is distributed by MyCinema.

Murderous Trance was just recently awarded at the Gold Movie Awards in London. The film received the award for Best Feature Film and Josh Lucas was awarded as Best Actor for his role in it. Among the nominees were also Arto Halonen for Best Director and Pilou Asbæk for Best Actor.


Back Towards Light - Screenings at SBIFF

Monday, January 20th – 7:40 PM, Fiesta 4

Wednesday, January 22nd – 10:00 AM, Fiesta 3

Back Towards Light - Trailer

Murderous Trance: Gold Movie Awards - Winners

MyCinema : Murderous Trance