Up North Films
Michael Loukinen: 30 Years of Filmmaking

In 1980, a young professor of sociology at Northern Michigan University began a journey that he had no idea would last for 30 years. As part of his work studying the Finnish culture of the Upper Peninsula, Michael Loukinen came to know a multi-generational family in north Ironwood who exemplified the changes occurring in such immigrant families in the region.

Inspired by his love of documentary filmmaking, he raised funds to make his own film about this family. Finnish American Lives was released in 1982 to great regional and national acclaim and brought attention to the history and culture of the Upper Peninsula’s people.

Thirty years and 13 films later, Loukinen is still pondering his next projects. His past work, however, is being celebrated on the campus of Northern Michigan University this winter with a retrospective of some of his best films, many of which have not been shown publicly in several years. This retrospective, Michael Loukinen: 30 Years of Filmmaking, is being sponsored by the office of the provost, Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center, department of sociology and social work and the anthropology club at NMU. From February through April, six of his films will be shown on the big screen in Jamrich 102. All of the films will begin at 7 p.m. and will be free to the public. DVDs will be sold at a substantial discount.

Loukinen grew up in downtown Detroit and later in its northwestern suburbs. In both places, he heard his parents speaking Finnish with relatives and friends. They were descendents of Upper Peninsula Finns who had emigrated from the Sami region of Finland. Summers were spent on a small dairy farm in Jacobsville owned by his aunt and uncle. “I lived the life of a Finnish American farm boy during the summers and thus became half Yooper.”