'The Punk Syndrome' co-director and cast discuss their SXSW-winning documentary
Co-director J-P Passi and two members of Pertti Kurikka’s Name Day, the band featured in 'Punk,' talk about how their movie got started and the niche the band members feel they've found.
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Erin: When I was watching The Punk Syndrome, I was reminded of a musician, and I don’t know if you’ve heard of him, named Wesley Willis.Skip to next paragraph
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Erin: He was also mentally handicapped, and he had schizophrenia. He would write songs about having schizophrenia, and stuff around Chicago, where he lived. He passed away ten years ago. There was some fear of him being exploited due to his disability. Do you guys fear being exploited because of your disability, or that people might take advantage of you?
Sami: No. Because we’re out there. First of all, we went out there. At first we thought that people would shoot us because we are mentally handicapped. [Instead], everyone was so supportive. We were like, “What’s going on?”
When I was a youngster, there was a lot more negativity. We’ve had fans that have come to different parts of Finland to see us, people who would travel 200km just see us. People have been really, really supportive. It’s easy for us to do punk rock, because it’s already a family. Everybody saw us and said, “You’re pretty good!” They don’t look at us as mentally handicapped, they just look at us as us. And that part has been really good.
Erin: Do you think you’ve found some acceptance, now that you have cultivated a niche for yourselves?
Sami: Yeah. When we are musicians, everybody accepts us, but when we are on our own in society, it’s a little difficult. When we are musicians, it’s like, “Okay, we’re on our own!” It’s harder when we’re not musicians.
Erin: So it’s like when you’re out performing, you’re accepted, and then when you’re in the real world–
Sami: It seems like we have to do a lot more in the real world to be accepted.
Erin: And then you write songs about the “real world”, and then you play them–
Sami: It’s Pertti that writes the songs. Sometimes, I’m not agreeing with the views of the songs. But I still have to play the songs!
Co-Director J-P Passi
Erin (to J-P): How long did you follow the band?
J-P: About eighteen months or so.
Erin: And during that time, they gained a huge following.
Erin (to Sami): When you formed the band, did you think it would get as big as it did?
Sami (laughing): No.
J-P: It was kind of a project.
Sami: It started because our manager put one of our songs on YouTube. After that, it was like, WHHHHOOOOOOAAAA!!!! A lot of people watched it. After that, it got so big, we got gigs, and the rest is history. The movie came, and everything got big.
At this juncture, the publicist asked Toni to say a few words. His thoughts were translated from Finnish by J-P Passi.
Toni via J-P: He really likes the film. But in the film, he was visiting a group home. It was busy there. He wants to stay with his parents, and he will stay with his parents. He will not leave home.
Erin: I totally understand that. What are your hopes for the film, and what are your hopes for the future?
Sami: Especially today, I am looking forward to seeing how Americans react to this. It’s always a little nerve wracking, because people are different. For some of them, it’s a big success. But you never know when you go to a different place. We’ve been to Canada, and that was that. And now we’re in America, one of my favorite countries. Because I lived here for four years, and I haven’t been in America in 21 years. It’s good to be back.
Erin Scherer blogs at The Film Panel Notetaker.
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