About the work
They Came in Crowded Boats and Trains
Refugees from Finland and Iraq struggle across geographical and temporal borders on a journey to find safety.

They Came in Crowded Boats and Trains is a short film that combines the stories of Finnish refugees at the end of the World War II with the journeys of refugees from Iraq who have travelled to Finland in the present day.

In 2015, 30,000 refugees, mainly from Iraq, crossed the border from Haparanda, Sweden to Tornio. However, less than 100 years ago, the stream of refugees flowed in the opposite direction when 56,000 Finns fled to Sweden across the same border during the autumn of 1944. The Finns travelled to Sweden on boats and trains as well as on foot, having walked for days and for hundreds of kilometers through the wilderness of Northern Finland.

By combining these stories, They came in crowded boats and trains places the present refugee situation within a historical context, and presents a different view of Finnish history, where Northern Finland is seen as a place that people have both escaped from and sought shelter in.

The film mixes the past and the present by showing refugees from Iraq re-enacting scenes of Finns leaving Northern Finland. The narration in the film is based on archival letters, diaries and interviews of Finns who escaped to Sweden as refugees in 1944. They tell stories of the difficult journey, cultural differences, the feeling of leaving their homes and homeland, and the safety of arriving in a peaceful host nation – stories which clearly resonate with the experiences of refugees today.

By creating a dialog between the past and present, the film fights against historical amnesia, reminding us that not so long ago Finns and Europeans were themselves refugees and migrants. The film highlights the importance of hospitality, and our responsibility to protect and welcome others by recognizing our shared vulnerability in times of difficulty.


About the artists
Minna Rainio and Mark Roberts produce multi-channel moving image installations and short films that investigate the impact of social and political power on individual experience and history, and illustrate the manifestation of power in physical spaces. Many of their works use the form of documentary fiction to confront the audience and destabilize perceived boundaries and perceptions of time, space, and society.

During 2009-2011, Minna Rainio was a Visiting Associate Professor in Photography at the University of Minnesota. Since completing her Doctorate in Art in 2015, she has been carrying out post-doctoral research into art and climate change. Mark Roberts works as a screenwriter, and has received multiple annual artist grants from national and public foundations in Finland.

Rainio & Roberts have exhibited widely in Finland, Europe, the United States and South America, with recent exhibitions in the 8th Turku Biennial, Finland (2017), Forum Box/Mediabox, Finland (2016), Luleå Konsthallen, Sweden (2015), and Mänttä Art Festival, Finland (2015). Their films have also been shown in the Official Selections of international film festivals such as Interfilm (Berlin), Punto de Vista (Spain), Leiden International Short Film Experience (Netherlands), and the International Environmental Film Festival (Paris).

Rainio and Roberts are currently researching and producing a new series of works that investigate the interconnections between climate change, consumerism, and global capitalism.