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Diving into the Unknown

Internationally acclaimed Finnish director and scriptwriter Juan Reina has built a reputation around titles like 6954 Kilometres to Home, Iseta- Behind the Roadblock and Albino United. The films won him awards and nominations around many parts of the world, and he has worked with producers such as Nick Broomfield, Nick Hughes and Eric Kabera.

The director’s latest film is about dangerous underwater cave diving. It is unconventional, brave and does not fit right into a mediocre outdoorsy category of documentary films.

Reina states on the official film’s website that “It occurred to me that cave divers and astronauts are really the last true explorers in the world today. Going deep inside these caves means having to rely solely on their own skills, as no GPS or other devices can reach those depths”.

The level of suspense and increased compelling sense of horror created in the narrative give real insight into the world of 130 metres deep underwater diving in caves by taking the viewer on a terrifying journey, highlighting the dangers and implications such adventures can lead to.

The technical extreme diving techniques and processes in this documentary have rarely been attempted before, but the good thing is that it makes for important and forceful documentary viewing.

Featured in the film are the four Finnish hard-core divers Vesa ‘Vescu’ Rantanen, Patrik ‘Patte’ Grönqvist, Sami Paakkarinen and Kai ‘Kaitsu’ Känkänen, whom the story is based around. They are extremely driven with a need so strong that they feel urged to participate, or as a child of one of the divers expresses it, “Dad has to dive”. Even if this can mean putting themselves and fellow participant divers’ lives at risk.

The prime target and desired destination is in central Norway. At the end of Plurdalen valley there is a 35m-wide river, an unusual pond called Plura, it rises abruptly out of the ground. This location is the attraction and ultimate goal for the divers because at the end of it, very deep down, there is lots of colourful, beautiful and untouched scenery to waiting to be explored.

In February 2014 the group is ready to pursue their ultimate diving expedition. Building on years of underwater diving experience helps, but nothing can really prepare them for the challenge and the impact it is going to have on everything that follows.

Successful diving expeditions are based on a mixture of skill, experience and knowledge. But the level of trust and strong friendships between the team of fellow divers are determining factors when it comes to deciding who to dive with.

But despite being a team with these qualities things do not go according to the plan and two of their fellow divers Jari Huotarinen and Jari Uusimaki drown at a depth of more than 100 metres underwater in a cave between Plura (Plurdalen) and Stenugleflaget.

After the accident international authorities announce their decision to cancel an operation to retrieve the bodies by deeming the operation “too risky.”

However, seven weeks after, the four friends, supported by their team of assistant divers, go ahead and carry out an operation to retrieve the two bodies, all done in secrecy.

The narrative of the documentary focuses on this expedition. It examines what happened during the accident and what process and actions to take following it to get two dead friends back.

Diving into the Unknown tells a remarkable true story. It is tragic, yet celebratory because it explores human nature, the loyalty of true friendship and the determination needed to be able to carry out a major task.

Visually stunning, honest and suspenseful, the story told here is one of substance. It is also an outstanding watch for reasons that go far beyond diving and any technologies involved. It is about some best friends who return to locate and bring back their best friends in order to get a sense of closure, not just for themselves, but for the families involved.

CategoriesFeatures Issue 18
Susan Hansen

Susan Hansen is a Danish writer and qualified journalist. She is a regular contributor to national and international magazines and websites. Originally born in South Korea, she has previously lived in Glasgow and Copenhagen. She works for the BBC, in Radio and Music, where she has gained experience in production of television, digital and multi-platform media and has helped cover several large events for the organisation.