Tia Kouvo

Tia Kouvo is a director and screenwriter with a background in social psychology. She graduated from the Valand Academy in 2018. “Family Time” (“Mummola”) is her debut feature film and it is based on her eponymous graduation film. The short was awarded at both HIFF (Love & Anarchy) and Tampere International Film Festival. She is based in Gothenburg and works in both Sweden and Finland. Kouvo has developed her distinct, observational style in her previous films, among which her award-winning shorts “Chat with Me” (2014) and “We Retired People” (2018). Her latest short film, “Hollywood,” is in post-production. In 2021, she participated in both the Torino Feature Lab and the Nordic Film Lab.

 Tara Karajica talks to Tia Kouvo about feminism and film and her darkly comic debut feature, “Family Time,” (“Mummola”), in which three generations of a Finnish family gather at a snowy cottage for Christmas and tensions begin to simmer. This minute exploration of suffocating private spaces that deftly uses deadpan comedy and melancholy to convey what cannot be easily said, premiered at the 2023 Berlinale and is now screening in the Europe! Voices of Women in Film program at this year’s Sydney Film Festival.




How did you get into filmmaking after your studies in Social Psychology?

Tia Kouvo: After high school, I knew I wanted to study Arts, but I wasn’t sure what it would be. So I went to University while trying to figure that out. After a few years, I moved to Sweden and decided to dedicate myself to filmmaking. I took a couple of shorter filmmaking courses before I got into the film school in Gothenburg. There’s something socially psychological about my films; they study people in a group setting and look at the interconnectedness more than one individual’s perspective. So, maybe, the link between these two disciplines is my interest in people in a group and our relatedness to each other, the society and our surroundings.

How did Family Time come about?

T.K.: I’ve had the idea for a very long time. The starting point was that I wanted to depict interactions inside a family; what happens inside a home, very truthfully. I also wanted to make a different kind of depiction of Christmas. With different, meaning depicting ” a normal Christmas” as I see it. Not a fancy and idyllic one, but quite a typical Christmas.

How do you spend your Christmas holidays?

T.K.: I usually spend Christmas with my family.

How much of your own family experiences made it into the script?

T.K.: There’s always a lot of stuff that is close to my own experience. I would say I’m using the personal as a material to reflect on things that puzzle me. I’m sure my family members would recognize something from the film; a way somebody talks, etc., or a certain way to be, but it’s all still fictional.

Can you talk about finding the right balance between comedy and drama as well as opting for a static camera in terms of style?

T.K.: With a static camera and long takes, you get to observe a situation from a perspective. We’re not so emotionally involved, we are more observers… I wanted to shoot Family Time in this style because I want to look critically at how we behave towards each other. If we would follow the characters with close-ups, it would’ve been a totally different focus; it wouldn’t be about the situation itself anymore. Humor is something that comes naturally to me, but maybe most of it happens at the writing stage, where you try to balance lighter scenes with heavier ones.

Can you talk about the female characters in the film? How do you see them?

T.K.: For me, the most important thing is to write characters that are complex, full and real. It doesn’t matter if it’s a female or male character; I’m interested in the deeply humane in us and I often show my characters in quite private situations, where they are guardless. I wan’t to break the surface of the illusions that we want other people to have about us. I want to show things that are difficult and shameful.

What were the challenges of making this particular film? And, the little victories?

T.K.: Of course, making long scenes with only one camera-angle and with many actors is always a challenge. I had tried it out in short films before, otherwise I could not have done it in my debut feature. The victory is that we succeeded in what we were doing, even with the more difficult scenes.

Are you a feminist? If so, how does it inform your filmmaking?

T.K.: Yes, of course. I think a lot about my position in the world; from what position I’m telling my stories. I try to treat all my characters equally, and to also try to question my own thinking. Why does a certain character have to be of this gender or ethnicity etc.? I also think it’s a politically important act that I, as a female filmmaker, first of all make films, and that I push to get them into the best screening venues in the world. But I want to add that my perspective of the world is not a radical one or a very under-represented one, and there are so many minorities who also need to get their stories told.

Do you have a favorite female filmmaker and a favorite film by a female filmmaker?

T.K.: It’s hard to name one favorite, but I love the works of, for example, Sofia Coppola, Maren Ade, Mia Hansen-Løve, Andrea Arnold, Lynne Ramsay, Alice Winocour and Maïwenn.

What is your opinion on the situation of women in film today? How is it in Finland now?

T.K.: In Finland, the situation is quite good, I would say, but I’m no expert on statistics. Of course, I’ve made all my short films in Sweden and only one film in Finland so far, but I haven’t faced anything problematic when it comes to gender. From my point of view, I just try t to push my films to get made and seen with all my power.

What are your next projects?

T.K.: My next project is another feature film, also revolving around the theme of family. I’m planning to shoot it both in Finland and Sweden, hopefully in two years time.




Photo credits: ©Carlo Askander.

This interview was conducted in partnership with:




Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

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