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Tribeca ’10 | “Freetime Machos” a Docu-Comedy Says Director Mika Ronkainen

Tribeca '10 | "Freetime Machos" a Docu-Comedy Says Director Mika Ronkainen

Documentary filmmaker Mika Ronkainen will premiere his latest raucous documentary “Freetime Machos,” to North American audiences at Tribeca.

Matti and Mikko play for Finland’s worst amateur rugby team. Overworked and domesticated, the two men long for a space to revel in their masculinity and bond with other men. While weekend rugby allows them to indulge in a communal fantasy of virility, between practices the teammates struggle with their more real and often emasculating day-to-day concerns: Mikko buys a new house, Matti’s girlfriend pressures him for commitment, and a drive for new members draws interest only from a young Spanish woman whose attempts to carve out a place for herself on the team change the group’s homosocial dynamic in unexpected ways.

Director Mika Ronkainen’s smart editing places the teammates’ delusions of manliness in stark and comic contrast to their mundane lives and conspicuously subpar athleticism. By underlining the humor in this juxtaposition of exaggerated machismo and banal reality, Ronkainen presents his heroes as effortlessly charming even as they’re peacocking. “Freetime Machos” follows Matti, Mikko, and their teammates over the course of one season, on a quest to secure just a single win, crafting a gentle, genuine, and disarmingly funny love story of modern male friendship. [Synopsis provided by the Tribeca Film Festival]

“Freetime Machos”
World Documentary Feature Competition
Director: Mika Ronkainen
Primary Cast: Matti Keränen, Mikko Koljonen, Roger Holden, Jarmo Stoor, Tuomo Jaakkonen, Ana Vidal
Screenwriter: Mika Ronkainen
Producers: Mika Ronkainen, Kimmo Paananen
Editor: Anders Villadsen
Directors of Photography: Vesa Taipaleenmäki, Mika Ronkainen
Composers: Samuli Putro, Ahti Marja-aho
86 min., Finland/Germany

[Editor’s Note: This is one interview in a series profiling directors whose films are screening at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.]

Director Mika Ronkainen on his small-town background and what prompted him to document a rugby team…

I come from a tiny village, but back in the day you could see films on a big screen in the countryside. So I went to see a lot of films as a child. I remember seeing “Jaws 2” when I was eight and I couldn’t swim for a couple of years. I went to see Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” and fell asleep. I saw a documentary called” The Atomic Cafe” which I thought was pretty impressive. But I never really thought I’d start making films myself. I was more into music. Later on I entered film school because nobody wanted to make music videos for the band I was playing in. My music videos sucked and the band broke up. I had more luck with documentaries.

My current home town Oulu is basically two blocks away from the North Pole. It had never crossed my mind that somebody could actually play rugby up there. When I heard about the local rugby club, I was immediately tempted. Soft Finnish men playing the roughest sport in the world. It must be a comedy, I thought. We started filming, trusting that the story will reveal itself to us. Pretty soon the team started to recruit new players, and the only one they got was a Spanish woman. For an all male Finnish team! That’s when I was sure that I wanted to see how the story ends.

Ronkainen on his overall aesthetic and his experience making the film…

I think I make documentaries the same way as Mike Leigh does fiction films. The only difference is that we don’t rehearse and we have only one take.

It was an easy project. Excellent multilayered characters that create story and funny dialogue, great action, big emotions, naked bodies. What else could you ask for? More funding, of course.

Ronkainen on a how he fashioned his opening credit titles, and on what’s in store for the future…

I was wondering how to build the opening credits sequence. Luckily I happened to watch a film called “A Love Song for Bobby Long” with John Travolta and Scarlett Johansson. I’d love to say my main characters Matti and Mikko are John and Scarlett, but that’s not true. They’re Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman.

I am planning to start shooting a musical-documentary this spring. It’s my first film that’s been fully funded before the filming begins, so I bet it’s gonna be utter crap.

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