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This year's DocPoint festival presents documentary films on urban planning and communities

Four Nepali women and a young boy having an outdoors picnic

A Plan for Paradise

The documentary film festival organised since 2002 takes place in Helsinki in the turn of January and February. This year the programme contains treats also for architecture enthusiasts.

DocPoint is Finland's largest documentary film festival, held annually in January–February. This year's programme, announced today, includes more than a hundred topical Finnish and international documentary films.

One of the films of interest to architecture lovers is A Plan for Paradise, directed by Kati Juurus, an award-winning Finnish investigative journalist and former artistic director of DocPoint. The film takes viewers on a journey through a rare urban planning project from its first planning meetings.

A Plan for Paradise

Urbanisation and rural exodus are current phenomena in Nepal, where the capital, Kathmandu, constantly expands. In response to the urgent need for more planned urban space, the Nepalese government has decided to build a new city in the Kathmandu Valley. The city will be designed by the Finnish architect Pekka Helin and his firm, Helin & Co Architects. Helin & Co Architects has become familiar to Helsinki residents through the Redi shopping centre and its towers. However, Helin's office was chosen for this task thanks to the entry into the competition for the former Fornebu airport site, which won one of the European Urban and Regional Planning Awards in 2014.

A Plan for Paradise
Finnish architects Pekka Helin and Mariitta Helineva presenting their city plans in Nepal. photo: A Plan for Paradise

Planning an entire city of 600,000 inhabitants is a new and challenging task, even for the experienced Helin. In addition to the sheer size of the task, there are other challenges. An essential part of the planning is to preserve the numerous temples in the area, which range in size from a small stone-framed earthen pit to a UNESCO-protected Hindu pilgrimage site covering tens of hectares.

"The initial data and objectives of the design brief we received from the Nepalese Ministry included exceptionally comprehensive data on Hindu lifestyle, culture and site conditions. The material was prepared by local experts trained at top international universities and included the country's foremost Hindu scholar. They also supervised the design and were available throughout the work. It was a pleasure to embrace and empathise with their goals," says Pekka Helin in January 2024.

A Plan for Paradise is a unique portrayal of a vast design project and intercultural encounters. The Finnish architects and the Nepalese share a common goal: a city composed of quality homes and green spaces combined with sustainable energy production and Nepalese traditions. These goals are under threat as Nepal's new government comes to power, and the political change raises feelings of frustration.

Neighbourhoods in change

The programme also includes other interesting picks from an architectural point of view. Last Year of Darkness tells the story of five twenty-somethings in Chengdu, China, where an underground techno bar is about to be bulldozed under a subway extension. Magic Mountain takes viewers to a decaying Soviet-style tuberculosis sanatorium where Georgian patients, abandoned by society, make their own rules – until an oligarch buys the building. In The Mother of All Lies, the director builds a miniature model of her Casablanca neighbourhood to solve the mystery of why she has only one photo of her childhood and the girl in it is not her.

Magic Mountain Movie
The setting of the film Magic Mountain is in an old tuberculosis sanatorium in Abastumani, Georgia. photo: Magic Mountain

DocPoint aims to expand the public's understanding of the world by highlighting the diversity of the environment and people, both now and in the future. Equality, diversity and ecology are the festival’s core values. DocPoint's Programme Director, Inka Achté, is responsible for the programming.

All the documentaries mentioned above are also included in the Finnish Architecture and Design Days programme.

A Plan for Paradise
Kinopalatsi, theatre 8, Kaisaniemenkatu 2, Helsinki
1 February 16:30
3 February 16:30

Link to the DocPoint programme