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Faces of the Festival: Mika Ronkainen

Meet Mika Ronkainen, writer/director of the TFF 2010 rugby doc Freetime Machos (also available online via TFF Virtual Premium), set in Finland. The film—and Mika!—are super entertaining!

Faces of the Festival: Mika Ronkainen Tell us a little about Freetime Machos. What inspired you to tell this story?


Mika Ronkainen: I was under the impression that nobody played rugby up in northern Finland where I come from. And I must say, I had a bit of stereotypical prejudice about men who play rugby, you know. So when I heard about the team, I was immediately intrigued. And when I went to see them play, and I saw how they were together, I fell in love with them. They proved my stereotypes wrong. If you have great characters in an unusual setting, you can't fail. I realized I had great characters, and I could relate to them. Then it struck me that rugby was a sorf of last masculine resort for them in modern Finland. At work you don't use your physical masculinity that much anymore, and at home the role of a man is not what you learnt from your father. So you get together with other guys, trying to behave like real men, playing rugby, which is pretty physical and masculine. What do your subjects think of the movie?


MR: They love it. They think it's funny and touching, true and accurate. And their wives and girlfriends say that now they understand their men a little bit better. Are they celebrities at home yet?


MR: Well, especially Matti and Mikko, the two best friends in the film, have been giving quite a lot of interviews, and they posed in a women's magazine when we had the Finnish premiere, so I guess they are. But you know, they are like a great comedy duo. They were destined for this. Whenever I see them together I feel like I'm watching a movie.


Freetime Machos What's the craziest thing (or "lightning strikes" moment) that happened while making the film?


MR: At times the team was so desperate over not having enough players that they were trying to recruit my second sound guy, who was more well-built than the rest in my crew. He had never played rugby in his life, but they didn't mind. But I couldn't let him go because I needed him, too. He was happy about my decision. What’s the biggest thing you learned while making Freetime Machos?


MR: It reminded me once again that things are not always what they seem to be, and it's beautiful. We get so easily imprisoned by our own prejudice. What's your advice for aspiring filmmakers?


MR: Oh, man... Aspiring filmmakers? I still feel like I'm one, too, so who am I to advise anybody? Always when I start a new project I feel I have to learn everything again. That's my advice. Learn everything again. Don't get too comfortable. If you feel insecure, it's good. If you could have dinner with any filmmaker (alive or dead), who would it be?


MR: My hero is Mike Leigh, but I don't think I'd have anything to say to him. I love to cook so I could prepare a dinner for him and then we'd just eat in silence. That would be like a scene from an Aki Kaurismäki film. That would be a perfect dinner actually—Kaurismaki filming us eating silently.


Freetime Machos What piece of art (book/film/music/tv show/what-have-you) are you currently recommending to your friends most often?


MR: Lately I've been really enthusiastic about Jónsi's solo album, Go. And Moto Boy is another beautiful voice I am recommending. He sings the opening credits song in Freetime Machos. And, of course, when in NYC I should definitely recommend new Finnish literature: Sofi Oksanen's book Purge is going to be published in the US this month. Read it. What would your biopic be called?


MR: I have to quote one of the machos on this: Everybody is Little Bit Gay. What makes Freetime Machos a Tribeca (and TFF Virtual Premium) must-see?


MR: A couple went to see the film and afterwards called it "the best date movie ever." You wouldn't expect that from a rugby film, would you? And I have to tell this one, too: I heard of a woman who'd gone to see the film alone, and on her way back home she bought a sixpack of beer and a bucket of flowers for her boyfriend. Isn't that sweet?


Bonus! Freetime Machos is one of the 8 feature films available online from April 23-30 with the Tribeca Film Festival Virtual Premium Pass. The Premium Pass is available to all U.S. residents, age 18 or older, for only $45. Learn more, and get your pass today so you don't miss out.



Read more about Freetime Machos, and find screening times.
Find out where and when all films are playing in the 2010 Film Guide.


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