Born to an American father and his mother, part of a detested Swedish-speaking minority in Finland, he has felt the slings and arrows of envy and isolation.
“Being Swedish-Finnish means being an immigrant in my own country,” he tells me by phone from Helsinki.
In 2013 Karukoski was chosen as one of the “Variety” magazine’s top 10 Directors to Watch and his five films have won a swag of prizes and a Finnish Oscar nomination.
In “Heart of a Lion” he introduces Teppo, a neo-Nazi who falls in love with waitress Sari, played by Laura Birn, who’ll be at opening night in Canberra as the festival ambassador.
Sari has a 10-year-old, mixed-race son, Rhamadhani, to whom Teppo tries to become a father figure, with unpromising results, at first.
There’s something personal in this, too. “Rhamadhani is my alter ego,” he explains.Karukoski admits that he is typecast as a director who deals with societal issues, but as “an optimistic man myself, I feel there is hope… I also feel every man in every woman has some part that can be healed”.
There are 21 films in this new Scandinavian Film Festival.
Opening night features Swedish blockbuster “The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared”.
From Denmark comes family rock ‘n’ roll drama “Someone You Love” and from Iceland is “Spooks and Spirits”, “a ghoulish comedy of manners and misunderstandings”.
Norway’s list includes the thriller “Pioneer”, starring Australia’s Jonathan LaPaglia.
Scandinavian Film Festival, July 8-20, Palace Electric Cinemas. Bookings to scandinavianfilmfestival.com