Sisu: the death of Tom Sukanen

Based on the true story of Tom Sukanen, a Finnish shipwright and Canadian immigrant who was institutionalized in 1943 after spending a decade building a steamship on his prairie homestead, 1200 miles inland. Following the Great Depression and the loss of his family, this genius inventor, engineer and artist embarked on a dream, either divinely inspired or desperately mad, of sailing from the middle of the Canadian wheatlands home to Finland.


  • Written & Director: Chrystene Ells
  • Starring: Don Wood | Brian Dueck | Megan Fries | Lori Abbott | Jonathan Bragagnolo | Mark David Claxton
  • Cinematographer: Andrew J. Schlussel
  • Score: David Lawlor
  • Producers: Chrystene Ells & Chantel Sim
  • Executive Producer: Jarrett Rusnak
  • Executive Producers: Frank Mceachern & Outi Mceachern
  • Line Producer: Dauminique Napier
  • Visual Effects Supervisor: Brian Andrews
  • Supervising Sound Editor: Rusty Dunn
  • Art Director: Kristine Dowler
  • Costume Designer: Candace Bank
  • Assistant Director: Raul Viceral
  • Editor: Chrystene Ells

Java Post | Saskatchewan Communications Network | Calgary Finlandia Cultural Association | Sukanen Pioneer Village Museum | Creative Saskatchewan | Me Naiset


  • 09/2014 Bay Street Film Festival Retrospective, Thunder Bay, ON
  • 03/2013 Talking Fresh: Writing Canada, SK Writer’s Guild/SK Filmpool, Regina SK
  • 09/2012 Culture Days, T-Rex Discovery Centre, Eastend, Saskatchewan
  • 03/2011 International Festival of Animated Objects, Calgary, AB
  • 02/2010 Calgary Finlandia Club Director’s Screening, Calgary AB
  • 04/2010 FinnForum, Thunder Bay ON
  • 04/2010 Poetry and Film, Saskatchewan Filmpool, Regina, SK
  • 05/2010 Director’s screening, Swift Current SK
  • 07/2010 Finn Grand Fest, Sault Ste Marie ON
  • 10/2010 Bay Street Film Festival, Thunder Bay, ON (Audience Choice Award)
  • 10/2010 Petaluma International Film Festival, Petaluma CA
  • 03/2011 International Festival of Animated Objects, Calgary AB
  • 09/2009 World Premiere Montreal World Film Festival, Montreal QB
  • 2009 – 10 Saskatchewan Communications Network (nation-wide broadcast, Fall Lineup)

DVD & Blu-ray available through the MoxShop


Saskatchewan, Canada
 HD Original Format


  • SISU is a Finnish word that describes a character trait reportedly highly valued by the Finnish people, roughly translated as a combination of perseverance, courage, and a refusal to give up.
  • Writer/Director Chrystene Ells has been possessed by Tom Sukanen’s dream since she first heard it as a campfire yarn in rural Alberta in 1994. After her father’s death following three years of care-giving in her home, in 2006 Ells embarked on her own dream. She moved from San Francisco to Saskatchewan, Canada, spending five years and her late father’s life insurance to bring Tom to life on screen.
  • Over time the film took on a life of its own, as if a spark had been dropped in dry prairie grass, and soon an entire community was aflame with the project. By the time the film was complete, over four hundred people had donated and volunteered everything from performances to music to costume design to post-production work.

Some dreams don't die with the dreamer

Watch the Trailer


follows a man from childhood to the grave and beyond in search of his soul.

Surprisingly, as a film the tragic story is not grim, as the drawings, animations and other special effects give the narration lightness and flight of fantasy that lift the story to a new cosmic level. The director has succeeded in capturing the mysterious beauty of the Canadian prairies, and accentuated it with her painted and illustrated visions. Animated figures from the Finnish national epic poem the Kalevala, the dreamlike settings from Finland's Rauma old town, and the Värttinä-like a cappella singing by the Finnish women’s vocal ensemble Me Naiset add to the mythical, Karelian world of the film.

Anneli Lukka, Vapaa Sana

Tom wasn't crazy. He just wanted to go home.

"Moon" Mullin