THUNDER BAY -- SISU, is a Finnish story about having the courage, strength, and perseverance to conquer tragedy and rise above misfortune.
In 2011, filmmaker Marko Albrecht began producing a documentary that would honour the legacy of his late mother Päivi, his Finnish-American family and the Finnish mindset of SISU, a special strength and persistent determination of overcoming hard times.
“I started making this documentary to show my twins where I came from, and to leave a legacy of my mother who passed away when I was 16-years-old,” Albrecht said.
“I wanted to show my kids who my mother was, what it meant to be Finnish-American, and what SISU means.”
Shortly after Albrecht began planning the film his mother’s only surviving brother Heikki informed the family that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was told he only had six months to live, which left his family feeling shocked and devastated.
Heikki survived for the next three years, and Albrecht’s documentary changed directions as it documented the family’s voyage with Heikki, and how he dealt with the issues over that time.
The 36-year-old said at first the documentary was going to be geared toward his family’s interpretation of SISU, but as they were going through the adversity his family realized how important SISU was going to be during this time.
“To me SISU was the tie that bonded us all together through the process of grieving and tragedy, and with my uncle as well he was the king of our family that’s what we called him, the king,” Albrecht said.
“To see him deal with his own issues with SISU in the way he did I think it brought us all to a level of understanding of death, life and faith.”
Originally SISU was going to be a small montage to show Albrecht’s kids at dinner, but then it became a more complex story of life, death, and the Finnish community.
He said even though his family went through a few tragedies, their legacy lives on in the film, and the meaning of SISU is inspiring other’s with their own tragedies in a sense.
“Seeing the documentary now, watching him go through his final year, it hurts,” he said.
“Over time you watch it it’s like reopening the scab, but I think personally I’ve been working with it for so long I feel like I had extra time spent with my family.”
Albrecht hopes the documentary inspires people to live every day like it’s their last, approach life with a sense of purpose and give back and appreciate your family.