Void and The Ragged Life of Juice Leskinen triumph at the Jussi Awards
by Marta Bałaga
- The 2019 Jussis have championed courage, crowning a film made without the support of the Finnish Film Foundation
Chosen by the jury of film professionals and the board of Finnish association Filmiaura – as well as the public, who decided to award Jukka-Pekka Siili’s My Brother’s Keeper, about a popular rap artist called Cheek – 13 feature-length fiction films, three documentaries and three short films were competing for this year’s Jussi Awards, which have been handed out annually since 1944. While Teppo Airaksinen’s ambitious biopic on the “Bob Dylan of Finland”, The Ragged Life of Juice Leskinen [+see also:
film profile] (Yellow Film & TV) was in the lead with eight nominations, it ultimately went home with three awards, including one for cinematography, which went to Aarne Tapola.
But the biggest winner of the ceremony, marked by frequent appearances by Red, from the upcoming Angry Birds 2, was Aleksi Salmenperä, whose dramedy about two artists striving for success even at the cost of their fledgling relationship, Void [+see also:
film profile] (Bufo, Sahadok), enabled him to cash in on several awards out of his five nominations, including Best Director and Best Film. In the latter category, he was competing with Selma Vilhunen’s Stupid Young Heart [+see also:
film profile], Juha Lehtola’s The Human Part [+see also:
interview: Juha Lehtola
film profile], The Ragged Life of Juice Leskinen and the box-office phenomenon Happier Times, Grump by Tiina Lymi. It was also Salmenperä, along with his long-time editor Samu Heikkilä, who ended up receiving the most coveted trophy of the night: the Nordisk Film Prize, worth €20,000, handed out in Finland for the very first time.
As explained to Cineuropa by Katja Viitalähde-Annala, of Nordisk Film, the award for a “filmmaker who through his exceptional contribution over the past year has promoted and raised the level of Finnish film” was kick-started by the Nordisk Film Foundation in Denmark in 1996. Already the biggest movie prize in Finland, it will be given out by a different jury each year. This time, it consisted of producer Miia Haavisto, director Zaida Bergroth, screenwriter Jan Forsström, actor Peter Franzén, director-screenwriter Johanna Vuoksenmaa, editor Harri Ylönen and Filmiaura’s chairman, Manna Katajisto, who argued that Void “renews Finnish film culture by encouraging us to have courage”.
“We shot this film without any money and without the support of the Finnish Film Foundation. But that was kind of the point – to do it without anybody telling us what to do,” Aleksi Salmenperä told Cineuropa right after his acceptance speech. “We tried to focus only on the filmmaking, without thinking about the audience. I knew I didn’t have to show the script to other people, so I was able to write it with more courage.” Deceptively simple, Void still boasts the pairing of Laura Birn and Tommi Korpela – two of the most popular actors in the country. “We had an earlier project that fell through, as we didn’t get the financing. So we decided, ‘Never mind – let’s do something together anyway’,” laughed Salmenperä. “These roles are close to their real lives, so they could easily relate to it.”
Birn was nominated for her part, but it was Oona Airola who picked up the statue for Lead Actress for her star-making turn in Markku Pölönen’s Land of Hope [+see also:
interview: Markku Pölönen
film profile] (Solar Films). “She does what she wants, especially when someone tells her not to,” argued Airola when discussing her character, Anni. “I am usually cautious when people are only shown as strong or weak, as we are all both of these things. She goes through difficult situations and handles them with strength, but I had to show her weakness as well, otherwise it wouldn’t have been interesting.” Starting in 1945, it marks yet another period film for the actress after The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki [+see also:
interview: Juho Kuosmanen
film profile]. “I should have been born in another era! I think that Juho Kuosmanen and Markku saw that energy in me.” The award for Lead Actor went to Hannu-Pekka Björkman for his turn in The Human Part.
Kirsikka Saari won for her script for Stupid Young Heart (Tuffi Films), about a teenage couple faced with a surprise pregnancy and xenophobic attitudes, which left the Berlin Film Festival clutching the Crystal Bear for Best Film in the Generation 14plus category. “They are not just some ‘young people’; they are people. I could relate to them, also because I have two stepchildren and I met many kids in the youth clubs in the eastern part of Helsinki,” said the screenwriter, who had already worked with Vilhunen on their Oscar-nominated short Do I Have to Take Care of Everything? “This fascination with the right-wing movements is happening here and all over Europe. It was a frightening topic at first, but I really wanted to dig deeper and understand why it could seem so appealing, giving a sense of security to those who feel lost.”
The award ceremony was held in Helsinki on 22 March.
Here is the full list of award winners:
Aleksi Salmenperä – Void
Best Supporting Actress
Satu Tuuli Karhu – Happier Times, Grump
Best Supporting Actor
Paavo Kinnunen – Laugh or Die (Finland/Sweden)
Sanna Salmenkallio – Entrepreneur
Best Sound Design
Tuomas Klaavo – Void
Samu Heikkilä – Void
Best Production Design
Antti Nikkinen – Land of Hope
Best Costume Design
Susse Roos – The Ragged Life of Juice Leskinen
Best Make-up Design
Riikka Virtanen – The Ragged Life of Juice Leskinen
Best Documentary Film
Entrepreneur – Virpi Suutari
Best Short Film
Star Shaped Scar – Virva Kunttu, Vuokko Kunttu
Concrete Jussi for Lifetime Achievement
My Brother’s Keeper – Jukka-Pekka Siili
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