Connect with us
Putting Lipstick on a Pig Review


Putting Lipstick on a Pig | 2018 Warsaw International Film Festival Review

Putting Lipstick on a Pig | 2018 Warsaw International Film Festival Review

Show Me The Money: Karrento Investigates the Hidden Side of Online Gambling

While the Nordic way of life is famous and possibly admired worldwide, some of its beneficiaries find it a bit harder to navigate than advertised. By focusing on how online gambling may secretly be the key to the flawlessly functioning of society, Åland-born director Johan Karrento exposes some of the anomalies of the Nordic welfare system. With the social commentary of Putting Lipstick on a Pig, he travels back to his hometown on a quest to deconstruct some myths and to address the Catch-22 situation of the Åland Islands, situated in the Baltic Sea between Finland and Sweden. Approaching matters in a rather satirical and self-deprecating way, Karrento ensures the amount of data is easily digestible for audiences, and the human experiences of some 30,000 Åland inhabitants always approachable.

When you live in an isolated community like the Ålanders, playing hide and seek is not an option. Yet Paf, a small Nordic gaming entertainment company, might be able to help those intent on trying. It certainly did with Päivi, a middle-aged accountant who became addicted to online gambling and stole over 800,000 euro from her clients and friends in the span of a few years’ period. Surprisingly, the money ended up boosting Åland’s annual budget, and distributed among public institutions. The documentary criticizes the authorities’ responsibility for their citizens and raises the question: Is it ethical – or even acceptable – to prioritize the collective over the individual, if this means the latter will suffer and suffocate in the system built to provide them with a comfortable and carefree life?

In recent years, creative documentaries produced in the Nordic countries started to expose the unseen layers of the Nordic welfare system. Despite their stylistics differences, Putting Lipstick on a Pig, Entrepreneur, Giants and the Morning After, Nokia Mobile – We Were Connecting People or My Heart Belongs to Daddy, clearly reject the idea of a Nordic utopia. Through individual stories, they present a different, less known, somewhat depressive North, but most of them do offer some joyful bits and lighten the mood with some humorous moments. In an imaginable Nordic cinema glossary, self-irony and self-reflection rank indeed high, even if the letter s would suggest differently. Karrento’s piece doesn’t prove otherwise.

As Åland native, he inevitably becomes part of the narrative, and for a certain period time transforms himself into an investigative journalist. Not afraid of getting in front of the camera himself, Karrento tells the story with his whole body and soul. With talking-head interviews, a voice-over, an on-screen presence, graphics, and all kinds of statistical diagrams, he connects and moves effectively between Sweden, Åland, and Finland. As a kind of communication exercise, the colorful inserts and gambling-inspired music and sounds add some bite to the interviews. It might seem the inserts pop up on the screen randomly, but they essentially replicate the feeling of a slot machine – or even the money travelling between bank accounts.

A new Nordic wave might not be surging from this tiny island, but it’s fair to say a least that a series of Nordic documentaries are exploring the uncharted depths of Nordic welfare and reaching the international stage of the film industry. Despite limiting its focusing to a small part of the region, Putting Lipstick on a Pig has what it takes to work in a global context, too.

Reviewed on 20th at the 2018 Warsaw International Film Festival – Documentary Competition. 75 Mins. Part of the The Fipresci Warsaw Critics Project.


Click to comment

More in Reviews

To Top