The invisible hand behind the camera was very prevalent in two of the most touching films at Silverdocs; whether or not this was an issue depends on how you like to take your nonfiction filmmaking. Both Steam of Life and Familia were gripping works that maybe had little in common besides their potent emotionality and Scandinavian directors (Finnish in the former, Swedish the latter), but it was hard to escape the sense that the stories being offered up had been shaped all too readily for the viewers.
Mika Hotakainen and Joonas Berghäll’s comic Steam of Life is less a documentary than it is a dry comic rumination on the pains and pleasures (mostly the former) of life, all set within the Finnish saunas where a succession of naked and sweating men tell stories in between beers. The locations are as different as the men themselves, from the functional municipal saunas where two seemingly homeless men grouse about their lives to the jerry-rigged one fashioned out of a rustbucket trailer in the backwoods. One man even fashions a sweat chamber out of a glass phone booth at a country crossroads.