Olli Mäki’s story charms director

“Artistic freedom is everything for a film-maker. Maybe it’s easier to ask for it once you have proved yourself to be trustworthy”, wonders film director Juho Kuosmanen.

His movie The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki won the prize of Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival, and great success has been predicted for the movie and its director.

The overall effect of the publicity the movie has got thanks to Cannes will only become clear later, but Kuosmanen says that at least the partners in the movie have liked the attention. According to Kuosmanen, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki seems to be selling well overseas, and the director is also happy if other Finnish film-makers receive attention thanks to the film.

“When one film-maker from a country is noticed, it usually means that people start looking at the whole country.”

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An exceptional man, an exceptional movie

The idea for The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki came in 2011. Kuosmanen tried to write a couple of scripts, but they just did not seem to progress. Taulukauppiaat (The Painting Sellers), the movie Kuosmanen directed as his graduate work, had won best student movie award at Cannes earlier.  This meant that Kuosmanen’s first full-length feature film would also be shown at the festival, putting even more pressure on the work. The Kuosmanen came across the story of boxer Olli Mäki.

“I thought that through it I could address the same feelings, i.e. pressure and success, and what it means to different people.”

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki depicts Mäki’s preparations for his upcoming world title fight. At the same, he realises that he has fallen in love.

Kuosmanen was interested in how before the fight Mäki was built up to be a national hero, even though the boxer himself was expecting something less than heroic.

“Olli Mäki was a good boxer, but his kind nature was in conflict with the harshness of the sport.” As he was an exceptional boxer, it was necessary to make an exceptional boxing movie.

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Recreation from silent movies

Now Kuosmanen is working on two scripts, and over the winter he is shooting a silent movie for the Loud Silents festival. In store is a new version of Finland’s oldest film, Salaviinanpolttajat from 1907.

Kuosmanen has previous experience of making silent movies; in 2012 he made the movie Romu-Mattila ja Kaunis Nainen. It is being shown again in Paris, at the film archive in conjunction with the premiere of  The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki.

“The periods between films are long, as are the processes, especially when you want to be involved in everything. For this reason it is good to have some shorter projects in between, so that there is still that feeling of doing things together and a bit of playfulness. Silent movies are refreshing projects and they also bring with them ideas.”

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki is in theatres from 2 September 2016.

Juho Kuosmanen has received grants from the Finnish Cultural Foundation for artistic work and making his movies.
, Jenni Heikkinen.