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ImageOut: The Rochester LGBT Film Festival

Program 11: Tom of Finland


Directed by Dome Karukoski

ASL Interpreted, Subtitled, Spotlight Feature, Narrative Feature, Saturday, Oct. 7 / Finland / 2017 / 115 mins / English, Finnish, German with some English subtitles

Program 11: Tom of Finland

Dryden Theatre (George Eastman House)
October 7, 2017 9:30 pm Buy Tickets


Is there any example of queer art more iconic than the beefy biker studs, moustachioed police officers, and randy cowpokes of Touko Laaksonen? Better known by his nom de “peen” Tom of Finland, the influential artist is now the subject of this crowd-pleasing biopic, following the life of the man responsible for images that have fueled generations of gay men’s filthy fantasies.

The film begins with Touko (wonderfully portrayed by Pekka Strang) in the Finnish army during World War II, where he experiences a sexual awakening, cruising in the woods with his fellow soldiers. After the war he returns home, moving in with his buttoned-up younger sister, Kaija (Jessica Grabowsky), and taking an unassuming job as an illustrator at a local advertising agency.

At a time when homosexuality is criminalized, Touko is forced to keep his desires hidden, and his only indulgence comes through sketching erotic images of muscled, impossibly endowed men engaging in all manner of illicit activities. The men he draws are uninhibited in ways he could only dream of being. But when he and Kaija add a handsome new flatmate Veli (Lauri Tilkanen) to their living situation, suddenly Touko’s worlds collide and he’s inspired to take a few bold steps – both in love and in his art.

As Touko finds ways to distribute his unique drawings around town, the artist gains a following, quickly becoming something of an underground icon among closeted gay men who are just as eager as he was to find an outlet for their pent-up passions. Soon, the drawings cross the pond to find an even more adoring audience in America.

Now the subject of dozens of coffee table books – and even honored with a series of postage stamps in his home country – Laaksonen’s artwork is a celebration of life and sexuality, and a symbol of freedom to gay men all around the world. Director Dome Karukoski peels back the layers of this complicated figure, examining the legacy of an artist who changed the world, one bulging pair of blue jeans at a time.

— Adam Lubitow

Note: Join us for a pizza party at the Bachelor Forum following this screening.



  • FIPRESCI AWARD, Best Nordic Film – Göteborg Film Festival (Sweden)
  • OFFICIAL ENTRY – Academy Awards (Finland)
  • OFFICIAL SELECTION – Frameline San Francisco LGBTQ International Film Festival
  • OFFICIAL SELECTION – Tribeca Film Festival
  • OFFICIAL SELECTION – Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival
  • OFFICIAL SELECTION – Edinburgh International Film Festival

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Dates & Times

Program 11: Tom of Finland

Dryden Theatre (George Eastman House)
October 7, 2017 9:30 pm Buy Tickets