The winner of the 2019 Prix Europa award for Best European TV Fiction series, Invisible Heroes tells an incredible and true story that is worth bingeing.
Helsinki, Finland. 1972. Tapani Brotherus (Pelle Heikkilä, Jägarna, Jordskott, Midnight Sun) learns from his boss at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that he is being sent to Chile to establish the Finnish embassy in the South American country’s capital of Santiago. He has six months to prepare — meaning six months to get trade agreements for wood and copper in order… and to learn to play golf.
Santiago, Chile. 1973. Tapani has been the embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires for six months, and during this time has seen the country become divided between supporters of Socialist President Salvador Allende and Chileans who oppose Allende’s Marxist politics. But Tapani can’t get involved in the politics; his job is to further Finland’s trade interests in Chile. So he plays golf alongside his deputy, Ilkka Jaamala (Ilkka Villi, Bordertown, Nymphs), with Finland’s head of economic development and the leader of Chile’s local trade commission. And despite empty grocery store shelves, he and his wife, Lysa (Sophia Heikkilä, Idiomatic, Bordertown), play host to these and other guests at their home.
The latter arrive much sooner and in greater numbers than Tapani had imagined.
On September 11, 1973, General Augusto Pinochet launches a coup. Military helicopters and jets zoom across the sky, tanks rolls through Santiago, and soldiers warn people to be off the streets when the curfew begins. Explosions blow in the windows at the Finnish embassy. News reports state that Allende is dead. And Tapani and Lysa watch in stunned silence as one fearful Chilean after another scales the outside wall of their home to seek their help.
Official Finnish policy is to stay neutral and out of conflicts and not to help refugees. But the Brotherus family can’t in good conscience throw these people out and thereby allow them to be imprisoned, tortured, and murdered. Inspired by Swedish diplomat Harald Edelstam (Mikael Persbrandt, Beck, Hamilton), who’s been busy helping Cubans and others escape the junta’s persecution, Tapani sets out on a secret mission to help the Chileans he’s been harboring plus more besides — risking his career and his and his family’s lives in the process.
Before watching Invisible Heroes, I knew nothing about Tapani Brotherus or his role in saving more than 2,000 Chileans from persecution during Pinochet’s takeover, so I was glued to the telly — learning a bit about him, Edelstam, the Finland-Germany relationship in Chile in 1973, and more — as the narrative unfolded over nearly five hours.
But even if you know the history, Invisible Heroes is still worth watching. The story is fascinating, and the actors are terrific, from the leads to those in supporting roles, including Néstor Cantillana (Fugitives), Cristián Carvajal (Verdades Ocultas), Aksa Korttila (Aikuiset), Carl-Kristian Rundman (Easy Living), and Andreas Voss (Sönke Möhring, Professor T).
The six-part, multi-lingual (English, Finnish, German, Spanish, Swedish) Invisible Heroes, a Topic Original series, is currently streaming in the US exclusively on Topic and its digital channels, including Topic on Amazon.
(For details about Topic, a new SVOD streaming service in North America, read this article.)
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