“Some we kept, some we threw back” draws a parallel between the migration of Finns to Minnesota in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the migration today of people from war-torn and famine-struck nations to the West.

The film depicts a man in contemporary times, making preparations for a sauna in the backwoods of Northern Minnesota. As he carries out his mundane tasks — chopping wood, pumping water, lighting the sauna fire — a woman narrates a series of experiences dating from her childhood when she and her parents left Finland to start a new life in America.

The woman recalls the reasons her parents left their home country: famine, unemployment, political persecution. She reveals how her family and other Finns were treated upon their arrival in the U.S.; how they were called “Dirty Finns”, classified as non-white, and treated as unwanted refugees.

Through its use of a dramatized narrative, the film draws clear parallels between the experiences of immigrants and refugees arriving from Europe in the past with those traveling from further afield today.

The film illustrates that not so long ago, the countries that today employ controversial rhetoric in the simplistic discussion of immigration were once themselves subject to the same pressures and circumstances that lead people to leave their homes in a desperate attempt to find a better, safer life.

For example, the current anti-immigration discourse taking place in Finland has become the most significant issue of the forthcoming elections. However, only 130 years ago Finns themselves were seeking to leave their country in massive numbers. In the late 19th and early 20th Century, hundreds of thousands of Finns migrated from Finland to find a new life in the United States of America. When they arrived they were met with scorn and treated as third-class citizens.

It is perhaps surprising that similar discussions in the U.S. today concerning the influx of foreign immigrants also appear to forget that the antecedents of today’s population were once immigrants themselves.

“Some we kept, some we threw back” contrasts these two situations, and draws parallels between the conditions and circumstances experienced by people in different countries, and in different periods of history. The themes of immigration, and the underlying reasons that cause people to flee their homes in search of a better life, are increasingly important in today’s world. While international immigration policies dominate political discourse, it is easy to forget that at its core it is an issue born in human, personal tragedy.

“Some we kept, some we threw back” will receive its premiere at Rainio & Roberts’s solo exhibition at Franklin Artworks, Minneapolis, 10th September to 29th October 2010.

Some we kept, some we threw back
2010
single-screen hd video
7:15

written, directed, photographed & edited  by
minna rainio & mark roberts

narration
diane jarvenpa

man
steve lampman