Venice Prize-Winner Hanna Västinsalo Prepping Sophomore Feature ‘Will O’ The Wisp’

EXCLUSIVE: After seeing her debut feature Palimpsest win an HFPA Special Prize at the Venice Film Festival, Finnish writer-director Hanna Västinsalo has found her follow-up project in Will O’ the Wisp.

Slated for production this fall, the film expands upon the narrative of the 2009 short that got Västinsalo an invitation to study directing at AFI. Set in 19th century Finland, the story follows Elina, a courageous young woman who defies the darkness of her circumstances, choosing resilience over despair. When offered a chance at redemption by enigmatic water spirits, she embarks on a tumultuous journey, navigating the complexities of motherhood and survival against a backdrop of shifting times and unforgiving choices.

More from Deadline

Västinsalo wrote the script with Cyril Abraham, who will produce for Thinkseed Films in Finland. Reel Suspects is handling sales outside of Finland.

Stated Matteo Lovadina of Reel Suspects, “We are incredibly excited to embark on this journey with Hanna Västinsalo for her second feature. Her distinct directorial voice, coupled with a captivating script, aligns seamlessly with our commitment to delivering elevated genre films that push boundaries and provoke thought.”

Released in 2022, Västinsalo’s first feature Palimpsest is a sci-fi tale about two elderly roommates who are randomly selected for a gene therapy trial that makes their bodies younger while keeping their memories intact. After being awarded a prestigious Biennale College Cinema grant to make the film, the multi-hyphenate was selected to participate in the HFPA and Film Independent’s residency program in Los Angeles.

Västinsalo’s previous work includes the shorts Man Under Bride and Wombsong, which were respectively nominated for Best VR Story at Venice 2020 and Best Virtual Reality Film at the 2019 NYC Independent Film Festival. The filmmaker enrolled at AFI after earning her Ph.D. in molecular genetics from the University of Helsinki, and has thus far seen her work receive awards and grants from the Finnish Film Foundation, Finnish Culture Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Oskar Öflunds Stiftelse and Finlandia Foundation.

Västinsalo is represented by Bernie Cahill and Jon Kanak of Activist Artists Management, who are attached to Will O’ the Wisp as executive producers.

Best of Deadline

Sign up for Deadline's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.