Tuija Halttunen • Director of How to Kill a Cloud
"Clouds are like characters and they represent something larger than human understanding"
by Kaleem Aftab
- The Finnish director tells us how she made a film about ethics rather than science
Finish director Tuija Halttunen discusses How To Kill A Cloud [+see also:
interview: Tuija Halttunen
film profile], her documentary showing scientists researching how to control clouds in the United Arab Emirates, playing in competition at CPH:DOX.
Cineuropa: Can you tell me about the origin of How To Kill A Cloud?
Tuija Halttunen: About ten years ago, I read a book about clouds, and then I thought I would like to make something about them because they're so fascinating. But I felt there was no proper angle or POV for that. And then, about four years ago, I heard about this Finnish scientist woman who got this tremendous grant from the UAE. And immediately I thought, well, this is the story I want to tell. And I contacted Hannah. And she said yes, she will go onboard if it's okay with the funders.
What was your first discussion like with Hannele Korhonen, the scientist seeding clouds?
I went to see her at her office. We had lunch together and talked for quite a while. I said at the beginning that I'm not aiming for a science film, but more a film about ethics, people kind of playing God or trying to control nature. And then she said, it's fine for her. But she wanted to keep her private life out of the film. And that was the only thing that made me ponder a bit, how can I tell the story so that I have a proper protagonist without showing her private life? So that was a thing. I had to struggle a bit, but then I really wanted to make the story.
How to Kill a Cloud is quite an aggressive title for the subject. Why did you choose “kill” instead of “seed?”
Why not "How to Seed a Cloud?” That would have carried the message that the film is a science film, which it isn’t. It would have driven the expectations of the audience in the wrong direction. I never thought the title was aggressive, but I probably unconsciously aimed to make the clouds or nature kind of a character in the film - clouds are like characters and they represent something larger than human understanding. Probably that's what I wanted to emphasise with the title, but it's hard to say afterwards - and why it is hard? I'm such an intuitive director - I don't always remember why I chose to do a certain thing.
Is controlling clouds the death of nature?
Clouds, for me, represent time and history, whereas human's lifespans compared to the time clouds have existed are very short. I wanted to make nature something more and wider than just a target for human science or a source to benefit our lives. I wanted people to think of this aspect too. I feel we humans are part of a larger essence formed out of the nature around us - we are not separate from that. When Hannele talked about the lifespan of a cloud, it made me really think that they could be presented in the film like a character.
The documentary shows how cloud seeding was used as part of warfare in Vietnam. Is that a big fear?
For some reason, many new inventions end up as weapons, and that is something we should think about. When we were filming, some people came to me and said, if you control the atmosphere, it's something as big as splitting the atom because that is a way to control the world. And it made me kind of worry about what might happen if the international community does not put rules and regulations in place and checks that countries are behaving according to those rules.
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