“I remember the exact date I got the idea for this film,” says director Arto Koskinen, at IDFA ahead of the Dutch premiere of his new feature doc Nokia Mobile – We Were Connecting People. “It was 3 September 2013. That day, I heard the news Nokia was going to sell its mobile phone business to Microsoft. I was sitting on a bus, and I thought, ok … it is over. At the same time, I realised I wanted to make a film about this. I didn’t know yet exactly what I was going to do – but I knew it would be a huge rise and fall story. A story of hubris.”
Originally, he planned a film not only on Nokia, but rather “… a film about the whole mobile phone industry in Finland, because it was such a huge industry.” But the focus always returned to the Finnish mobile phone giant. “So many other companies depended on Nokia. Nokia’s budget was bigger than the Finnish government’s!”
Like several of the characters in his film (many of the them former Nokia employees) – and like many Finns in general – Koskinen still refers to the Nokia story as a “miracle”. (Tellingly, a prominent slogan at Nokia’s old mobile phone division Mobira was ‘The impossible we deliver at once – miracles take a bit longer’).
Making creative use of archive footage and interviews, Nokia Mobile – We Were Connecting People reconstructs the incredible story of how Nokia flourished thanks to its open, innovative, service-oriented culture – before falling victim in the mid-2000s partly to its own success, but much more to the rapacious, bottom-line-oriented corporate philosophy of its (American) rivals. The demise of Nokia still feels like a national trauma to Finns, Koskinen stresses. “Most of the characters in my film felt this is something we have to speak about. It is important not to repeat these same mistakes again,” he says. “The Finns were so proud of what they were doing – then suddenly it was gone.”
Koskinen now sees history repeating itself in the world-famous Finnish education system. “The Finnish education system was one of the best,” he says. “But now they are ‘renovating’ it, and – I don’t know why – but they are repeating the same ideas of effectiveness that were used at Nokia in the middle 2000s. Some of the big bosses have been consulting on this – the same ones that contributed to the collapse of Nokia. The miracle of Nokia and the mobile phone industry was created from a totally different background. In our educational system, everyone was supposed to be equal, no matter whether you are rich or poor. Now this is being lost.”
Koskinen is now working on a new project that also deals with the tech revolution of the 2000s. “I am writing a feature film about this subject – the story of MyDevice [which also features in Nokia Mobile – We Were Connecting People]. Johannes Väänänen, the inventor of MyDevice, wrote a book about this [The Smart Device], and it’s quite funny – it’s the story of the whole information technology industry during the 2000s. It’s a funny portrait of the whole start-up world.” Koskinen has completed the first draft of the script, commissioned by the Finnish Film Fund.