Hobbyhorsing is a new trend that is taking off in Finland and Sweden. Made up of a stick and plush horse’s head, the hobbyhorse has become the centre of a subculture where young women and girls play with the toys, design them, enter competitions, attend specialised training camps and discuss their culture in online communities. HobbyHorse Revolution, directed by Oscar-nominated Selma Vilhunen (Little Wing), is an intimate portrait of three hobbyhorsers as they deal with the perils of teenagehood through their hobby.
The three main girls in the film all have similar personal issues. Each is alienated, bullied, struggling with their home-lives or dealing with depression. Through the hobbyhorse, they can create their own lives. They find friends with similar interests, develop their personalities, and achieve goals that they set for themselves. This isn’t a documentary so much about the culture of hobbyhorsing as it is about how the participants use the ‘sport’ to better themselves. Vilhunen exhibits great care and sensitivity when dealing with her subjects through the way she sympathetically explores the stigma of the hobbyhorse, as well as the delight and pleasure hobbyhorsing brings the participants.
The documentary is more about the girls than it is the sport. Going into this documentary, I was hoping for an insight into how the sport is organised, judged, maintained, and how it is growing in Scandinavia. Considering the title, it seemed fitting to take a close look at how hobbyhorsing works and move it from a ridiculous-looking game to a professional activity. However, Vilhunen is not so interested in the technicalities of the culture. For some, that could prove disappointing, having to watch teenagers grow up rather than hear about the inner workings of this strange hobby. But for those who can look past the fascination of hobbyhorsing, we are presented with an insightful documentary into how these girls use the hobby to their benefit. And it’s a difficult thing to balance. It’s easy to create a silly look at this subculture, with the girls jumping around and riding stuffed animal heads on a stick, which can look ridiculous. But Vilhunen proves it’s more than that; they are owning their hobby and taking it to the next level.
Overall, HobbyHorse Revolution demonstrates that this sport is a refuge from bullying and a celebration of the movements and harmonisation between animals and humans. Vilhunen creates the perfect blend of documentary; showing us how much these individuals invest into hobbyhorsing and how it is a testimony to their resilience for sticking to their hobby.