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Are Finnish Men Sissies? FREETIME MACHOS (Hot Docs 2010) Director Answers the Question

FREETIME MACHOS director, Mika Ronkainen (left) wasn't able to make it to Hot Docs 2010 for the screening of his film, but he was kind enough to share his thoughts on the film with me via email. As you know, I love this film (see review).

donna g: Was the Oulu rugby team the inspiration for the film or were you looking for a way to explore Finnish masculinity and decided to use the team as your subject?

Mika: The team was definitely the inspiration for me. I heard about the team, went to see them play, and fell in love with them. Of course, I'd been interested in this modern phenomena of machismo which had become mainstream in Finland. But I didn't have that in mind when I went to see them. Things just connected.

donna g: How pervasive is this feeling of "castration" among hetorosexual Finnish males? Are you able to comment on how homosexual men feel? Are they confused by their "public" roles as well? I ask because on of the characters in the film is gay.

Mika: I can't talk on behalf of all the Finnish men, straight or gay. But it's there, people talk about it. Some men talk about it, and some women agree to it. There are women who think that men are too sissies. And vice versa.

donna g: I'm curious about the term "aijyys". How long has it been in use?

Mika: I guess it's been there forever. It comes from an old word "äijä" which means "a man", but originally it has meant "god", too. I mean in the really old Finnish. But lately it's been used as a way to underline that you really are a man. It's as if some men feel that they've turned into a subculture, you know. In any subculture people underline their special qualities because it unites the people who want to be part of it. In gay culture it's cool to underline your feminine qualities. Straight men who don't want to seem gay underline their masculine qualities in the same way.

donna g: In North America there is a term "bromance" meaning a non-sexual, deep friendship between men--like Matti and Mikko in your film. I really want to thank you for expressing the feelings of loss that men feel when their closest friend gets married, has children and can no longer be a "party boy". I don't think I have seen this in film before. What has been the response from Matti and Mikko after seeing their friendship displayed so publically?

Mika: Well, first of all thank you. I think the film is ultimately a love story of two heretosexual guys. Matti and Mikko say they love the film. They say it's exactly how things happened. And what's best their wives say that now they understand their men better.

donna g: What is going on at Nokia? Could you describe the economic impact that is alluded to in the film?

Mika: The so-called Nokia miracle was a really big thing when it happened. It saved the Finnish economy, more or less. But we got dependant on Nokia and many young men devoted their lives to the company working their loyal asses off 24/7. Nowadays these guys are realising in their 40s that the company is not as loyal to them as they've been to it.

donna g: Your bio states that you have "no physical hobby". After spending so much time with the rugby team, did you have any urge to take up the sport?

Mika: I wouldn't dare to do anything as physical as rugby. I'm a sissy, in that respect. I did crosscountry skiing as I child, though, but that's it for me. But I am putting my hope on the next generation: I went to see a rugby match last summer with my two sons, and they started tackling each other immediately.

donna g: How has the film been received in Finland? Has it been shown in other countries? If so, were the responses the similar/different?

Mika: The response in Finland has been good. There's one funny thing which I've noticed here: older men don't seem to appreciate the film whereas women love it. I think this is because the image of Finnish man in my film does not exactly fit the older generation's traditional view. Personally I don't think there is such a thing as "Finnish man". It's a romantic myth. Today the concept of Finnish man should include men of all sorts: straight, gay, whatever ethnic background. That's how the world is today, and that's the Finnish man I am portraying in the film. Finland is not just the quiet blond white heterosexual man who talks about his emotions only when drunk, beats up his family, and then drinks himself to death.

For women, I think they love the film cos it gives a window to something that they've never seen before. And it might also be because the guys in film may cause motherly feelings... In other countries the reaction has been pretty similar, I think.

donna g: This documentary would make a wonderful feature film. Have you been in talks with anyone about making this into a fiction feature?

Mika: No, no-one's contacted me yet. Actually, there were some talks already about my previous feature length documentary Screaming Men, but nothing came out of that after all.

donna g: You are currently working on Finnish Blood/Swedish Heart; can you give us a hint about what that is about?

Mika: It's supposed to be a musical-documentary about how music is more important to your identity than your nationality, but let's see how it turns out.

Wednesday, May 5, 6:30pm, Cumberland Cinema.
Saturday, May 8, 6:45pm, Royal Cinema.

For more info:


I thoroughly enjoyed watching this film about men by men... I especially like the scenes of the guys just being themselves as if the camera wasn't even there. If only more films like this were made in this part of the world...
gordgin65 said…
I loved this film, it was great seeing men being men, no apologies. Would like to see it turned in to a feature film.

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