Daddy and the Muscle Academy

In the late 1940s, the artist Tom of Finland began turning his sexual fantasies into drawings. He gained world renown with the publication of his work in American men’s magazines. Gay men began to shape their bodies, look and entire self-image according to his idealised views of masculine-looking men dressed in leather or uniform. His drawings expressed a self-determined lust for life, liberated from any sense of guilt, which was perceived as a counterweight to social oppression.
This essayistic work is the only film about Tom of Finland in which he himself appears. In it, the artist talks about his experiences during World War II and the motivation for his work. Other artists, such as Isaac Julien, describe the fascination that Tom’s fetishist world exerts on them. A comprehensive retrospective of his drawings is juxtaposed with images of an underground cinema quality in which bodies move like gladiators to darkly mechanical techno sounds. Tom of Finland’s subcultural icons deconstructed mainstream perceptions of male homosexuals at the time; they still inspire the queer community today to understand the body as political destiny, to adapt it to one’s own identity and make it visible.
by Ilppo Pohjola
with Tom of Finland
Finland 1991 Finnish, English 55’ Colour & Black/White Documentary form


  • Tom of Finland


Written and Directed by Ilppo Pohjola
Cinematography Kjell Lagerroos
Animation Seppo Rintasalo
Editing Jorma Höri
Music Elliot Sharp
Sound Mixing Kikeono
Sound Kikeono
Producers Kari Paljakka, Alvaro Pardo
Restoration Ilppo Pohjola

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Ilppo Pohjola

Born in 1957, he lives in Helsinki, Finland. He studied at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, Sheridan College in Toronto and Harrow College of Higher Education in London. After his debut film, Daddy and the Muscle Academy, he went on to make further films, all with the leitmotif of transformation. He also works as a video artist, documentary filmmaker, cinematographer, graphic artist and musician, and produces the work of filmmaker and video artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila.

Filmography (selection)

1991 Daddy and the Muscle Academy; Panorama 1992 P(l)ain Truth; short film; Panorama 1998 Asphalto – An Aria for 13 Demolition Derby Cars, Girls & Gas Stations; Panorama 1999 Routemaster – Theatre of the Motor; short film; Panorama 2012 1 Plus 1 Plus 1 – Sympathy for the Decay

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2019