“Suomi’s Children,” airing tonight at 9 on KCET Channel 28 and repeating Saturday at 11 a.m., is an hourlong documentary about children in the Helsinki Junior Strings and Helsinki Junior Ballet. And it’s even duller than that sounds.

The videotaped program was made by KCET in association with MTV Finland and Arialibra, Inc. Apparently, MTV Finland has nothing to do with that other MTV, but it might have helped if it did.

Early on, a spiritless narrator says that the videotaped hour, produced by Lamont Johnson and directed by Cordelia Stone, will attempt to explain “What makes a Finnish artist Finnish.” The documentary does nothing of the kind--despite a smidgen of Finnish history, the program might as well have been shot at a Los Angeles dance school.

The narrator keeps talking about the “tension” and “strain” of the children’s preparation for a performance, but the cameras and microphones simply don’t pick up these feelings, though they must have been there. In fact, when he later claims how “nerve-racking” a rehearsal of female dancers is, the girls actually looked quite relaxed. Maybe even bored.


There are few maybes about the viewer’s boredom; even dance fanatics will find few moments of interest. The camera work is stolid, the interviews unrevealing. Besides the usual “why do you dance” cliches, two teen-age male dancers are asked the burning question, “Are you going to do military service?” (They’d rather not, it turns out.) Then one of them is asked “Which is the bad guy, the U.S. or Russia?” He simply and properly replies: “Stupid question.”

Not that the students and teachers have much more to say about music and dance--but surely one reason is that there’s almost no translated Finnish. The comments generally come in halting English, probably making some of the people seem less articulate than they really are.

There’s a nice bit of editing when a conductor/teacher speaks of becoming less patient with his students since turning 40, followed by a show of anger at a rehearsal. But it’s a rare moment amid the tedium.

For most of its slow-moving time, this is one show about Suomi (what the Finns call their land) that won’t have you singing “Oh Suomi, how I love ya, how I love ya. . . .”