Winner of 2017 Giller Prize

Winner of 2017 Giller Prize
Michael Redhill for his novel Bellevue Square

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Under The Red Star

Under the Red Star celebrates 100 years of turbulent history of the Finn Hall in Thunder Bay.  After I watched this rivetting documentary, I was close to tears in admiration for the people who built the building, also called the Finnish Labour Temple, and those who took part of its incredible history.

In 1910, 300,000 Finns had immigrated to North America and most settled around the Great Lakes.  The Finns became the backbone of the socialist movement in Canada and the Finnish Labour Temple in Port Arthur played a key role.  Over the years, more and more  Finnish immigrants arrived and were given a welcome at the hall. 

The documentary opens with Finnish poet Aku Paivio addressing an imaginary audience to describe the activities at the hall: the dances, the gymnastics, the political speakers,  the theatricals, the newspapers, the rallies and the  Hoito Restaurant but also the strikes, the demonstrations and the agitation for better working conditions and a more just society.   Many demonstrations met fierce opposition from the local authorities as well as the brutality of the police and anti-union bosses.

I was especially happy that the agitation for female suffrage was included as well as the work of local Finnish women who were integral to all the struggles. This includes the almost super human achievements of Sanna Kannasto, who spent her life organizing women to the cause.

Written by Kelly Saxberg and Produced by Saxburg and Ron Harpelle, Under the Red Star is full of great historical footage as well as moving personal stories. Danny Johnson's music sweeps us from one scene to the next. 

I bought my copy yesterday at the Scandinavian Deli across from the Finn Hall. 

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