Berlinale: Programme

Film File

Panorama 40

Daddy and the Muscle Academy

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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.

Ilppo Pohjola

Finland 1991

Finnish, English

Documentary form
55’ · Colour & Black/White · 2K DCP


Tom of Finland


Written and Directed by
Ilppo Pohjola
Kjell Lagerroos
Seppo Rintasalo
Jorma Höri
Elliot Sharp
Sound Mixing
Kari Paljakka, Alvaro Pardo
Ilppo Pohjola


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

Produced by

Crystal Eye - Kristallisilmä

World Sales

Crystal Eye - Kristallisilmä