At the 2018 Göteborg Film Festival, director Virpi Suutari presented her new documentary Entrepreneur, which looks at two small businesses in Finland: Jani and Satu run a number of fairground attractions, but they also travel the country with a mobile market stall selling heirloom meat products. Maija and Reetta recently started a business called Gold and Green, producing an alternative for meat made from oats. The film follows both business teams over a period of time.
Suutari juxtaposes Jani and Satu’s rural family business with Maija and Reetta’s urban enterprise. And while they share a number of characteristics, they also differ in many ways.
Making ends meet with meat
Partners Jani and Satu struggle to make ends meet as their businesses dwindle. They repeatedly wonder whether any customers will show up to buy their meat, and their children do not seem interested in the funfair business. Suutari follows them as they travel the country, out of necessity rather than conviction: Jani lost his job, and what started out as a hobby became the family’s livelihood.
«While meat was once a standard part of our diet, now alternative sources for protein increasingly need to replace it.»
So part of the year they live in a trailer on various fairgrounds, and part of the year they live at home taking their mobile meat-market stall to where customers might be. Coupled with their four children they are visually firmly grounded in the Finnish family-country life. Inside their home there is the lively mess of a family of six, while outside they deal with whatever circumstances they encounter: rain, snow, or sunshine.
A Chinese business adventure
Close friends, Maija and Reetta work in very different circumstances. They are opening a factory to produce Reetta’s invention ‘pulled oats’ on a large scale. For the moment, they occupy just a small corner of the large empty hall.
«China is a must-have market for global change to take place.»
Idealism drives them as they wish to change the world’s eating habits with something that should explicitly not resemble meat. Dressed in white lab coats and wearing white caps, they work on their laptops and phones during breaks from their factory-line work.
Their product is a success at home and they struggle to keep supplies up. They are mostly inside, in near sterile surroundings dominated by shades of grey, doing business through modern tech rather than face-to-face. Reetta travels to China with colleague Zhong-Qing to hook-up with a Chinese investor as a first step to conquer the world. However, in an outdoor restaurant with her Chinese colleagues, she seems totally lost.
Local and rural vs. global and urban
Suutari uses an observational style and provides very little context. Besides what the participants talk about and portray, the only factual information we get are locations: Honkajoki (North West of Tampere) is where Jani and Satu are based, Järvenpää-Helsinki indicates the location of the Gold and Green factory and Changsha the location of the Chinese adventure. In addition, there is Suutari’s own context in the form of her visualisation of the two teams.
While Jani and Satu represent old-school entrepreneurship as local, rural, small scale and personal, Maija and Reetta represent the contemporary entrepreneurship as global (at least in ambition), urban, large scale and digital. Moreover, the old economy is represented by a natural product; the new economy by an artificial one.
A new economic world order
While we used to get our food from nature and our direct surroundings, in the future our food will be factory produced and available world-wide. While meat was once a standard part of our diet, now alternative sources for protein increasingly need to replace it.
«Entrepreneur presents the shift from the old to the new economic world order. »
In the film, and despite risks such as imitation of their product, the move to China seems obvious as Zhong-Qing is a natural liaison between the two countries, and China is a must-have market for global change to take place.
However, the interest of Chinese investors in Gold and Green symbolizes an important and larger shift in the global economic field. As the USA seems to be retreating from the world stage, China seems happy to chip in with, for instance, major investments in Africa. In many ways, with respect to both food and business, Entrepreneur presents the shift from the old to the new economic world order.
The flow of human life
The film has a somewhat tight form, though it quite gently moves between the two entrepreneur teams and their daily activities. It opens with Jani rehearsing his wedding speech for his loved one. Gradually the team’s stories unfold. Suutari unites the two storylines through her somewhat repetitive use of music. At the end of the film Jani and Satu get married, and Maija gives birth to twins.
The film’s second last scene shows Maija and Reetta on a couch feeding the new-borns. Two of what are generally considered life’s great moments frame the film. Companies may come and go but the flow of human life remains uninterrupted.