Cover story Misc

Hurraa for children!

The minimum age for audience members for one of the productions
premiering at the festival couldn't be much lower: crawling and walking age
children. Working group Anttonen, Nuotio, Davies
offers them Rapurytmikarnevaali, an
action-packed crab-crawl rhythm and salsa carnival with songs that will make
everybody want to swing.

{mosimage}Children over five can
enjoy Sammakkoprinsessa (The Frog
Princess), a mix of fairytale, opera and puppet theatre, based on classic
folktales. While one of the many acts for 7 to 12-year-olds is Klokbornin Jättiläisjamit (Klokborn’s
Giant Jam), a show that combines shadow theatre with a wide variety of music
styles and brings to life the giants Gargantua and Pantagruel, created by 15th
century French writer Rabelais. 

The oldest non-adults
are well catered for with Idiothello,
a joint production by the Åbo Svenska Teater and the Von Krahl theatre in
Tallinn. Directed and choreographed by Muscovite Sasha Pepelyaev, the show draws upon two classical masterpieces,
Dostoevsky’s The Idiot and
Shakespeare’s Othello. The language
used is Swedish, but the piece is performed in a physical way with little

The Hurraa! Festival
offers children many fun and exciting experiences, but also takes up some
serious topics like bullying, the divorce of parents, a mother’s depression and
children’s rights and fears. Surkeus
& Kurjuus
(Gloom & Doom), for example, is a play for children aged
8-12 and broaches the fear after change and separation, plus how to conquer it.
Pikku Piru (Little Devil) is aimed at
the same age group and follows the story of a little boy who is bullied at
school, but whose parents are too busy to help him. 

The festival culminates
with the Näyteikkuna (Display window)
at the East-Helsinki Cultural Centre Stoa on March 16th and 17th, offering
non-stop theatre for children of all ages, even for babies. The events at Stoa
end with a workshop and seminar for makers of youth theatre with playwrights
Jeremy Turner from Britain and Maria Ines
from Argentina. 

The Hurraa! Festival is
organized by the cultural departments of the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and
Vantaa in cooperation with the Finnish ASSITEJ centre, Helsinki’s Theatre
Museum and the cultural department of Kauniainen. 


The performances take place at cultural centres, youth
centres, multipurpose buildings and schools throughout Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa
and Kauniainen.

Tickets 4-5 euros, festival pass for all performances on
16th and 17th March at Stoa 20 euros. 

Full details on all the acts (in Finnish and Swedish, with
some summaries in English), locations and the festival programme:

Features Music

A tsunami of Japanese Rock

Japanese rock (J-rock), or rather a particularly flamboyant subgenre called visual kei, is hitting it big all over Europe. Visual kei stands simply for “visual style”, and refers to a movement that pays specific attention to the visual side of ands. The look, eccentric and exaggerated, often draws inspiration from anime, video games, goth or punk subcultures, and usually involves theatrical costumes, clots of make-up, hints of androgyny and enough of bling to make Finland’s own Hanoi Rocks look like the Dave Matthews Band.

Musically most visual keibands fall under categories of goth rock or heavy metal, but subcategories abound. “There’s for instance angura kei, which is darker and not as particular about the visuals, and oshare kei, which is more cute and fluffy”, explains Annika Vellonen, also known as Matron, co-manager of JaME-Suomi web portal and an active member of the JrockSuomi association. “The categories mainly delineate a certain visual style, but it usually also reflects the music.Angura kei band MUCC, for instance, blends aggressive metal and punk rock.


J-rock fandom is often closely associated with a general interest in Japanese youth culture, and within the variety of styles represented by J-rock groups any Japanophile can find hers. The fans are truly dedicated, and in fact the recent invasion is mostly orchestrated by an underground army of fans. “There were a lot of fans and demand for gigs in Finland, but nobody was doing anything about it, so we decided to do it ourselves”, says Annika. JrockSuomi took the initiative and brought the first visual kei band Blood for a gig to Turku in 2005 and collaborated with King Foo Entertainment to bring in other names like D’EspairsRay andMUCC.

Once proven popular, bigger promoters are joining the game. This summer’s Ankkarock is the first Finnish rock festival to get on the J-rock bandwagon by adding visual kei heroes Dir en grey to their line-up. Bands are also springing up in China and Korea, and recently a group in Greece proclaimed themselves the first European visual kei band. There’s plenty of potential there, and right now J-rock is hotter than lava.

Antonio's blog Blogs

And they say students hate them

The guy was
sharp on the phone and not very eager to do much, even when I gave him freedom
of speech (as we always do, having a magazine called FREE!… 2+2…). He gave me
some excuses saying that he has to be tomorrow in Estonia, and that he could not be
reached by phone, and obviously was not going to check the mail there. The way
he talked about Tallinn,
I could have thought that he was flying to Nepal or to Mars…  I happened to have lived in Estonia during
6 months last year…and I appreciate among other nice features of our beloved
Baltic neighbour the great access they have to wi-fi connections in every
corner of the city and every café.

I chose the
option of just sending a quick mail at 13:00
in the afternoon, was asking for a very general opinion about the theory I am
interested in reporting, and the guy had a perfectly clear idea that he was
going to receive an e-mail mail in the next hours. It is almost 01:00 at night. No answer.

I don’t know
if it is by chance, but in the short history of FREE! Magazine, it does not
happen to be the first bad encounter with university professors. When preparing
our first issues, we had negotiations with a famous academic from the History
department, about the possibility of having a monthly column in FREE! He agreed
once and again, promised to send the material, the deadline came closer and
closer…and we never had farther news from him.

Not exactly
that University teachers are in the “top 10 of beloved professions”, I would
say, quite the opposite. Obviously not still at same level that my personal “number
ones”, the transport tickets inspectors, famous for their “friendly attitude”
and “exquisite courtesy”… With these attitudes, professors are climbing fast
in the ranking as well.

I encourage
to the nice professors and people from academic world in Finland (they
really exist my friends, keep the faith) to participate and collaborate with
FREE! Help us to spread the knowledge not only inside the classrooms, but
everywhere else!

Articles Misc

Year of the Pig

{mosimage}Here I am knocking at the door of sex in
the opening paragraph and even bringing pigs into the equation. I am confident
that there is an official name for people who are sexually aroused by pigs, but
we’ll stick with ‘pigverts’ for now. Swines, boars, hogs, pigs or whatever you
call them are helplessly connected with erotica and it was the human mind that
created intercourse euphemisms such as ‘making bacon’ and ‘to pork’, plus
twisting the meaning of, “Do you want to nibble my sausage?”

It goes on. Have you ever received that
email forward that lists unknown trivia, one of which includes the fact that a
pig has an orgasm that lasts for thirty minutes? Believe it or not, this
factoid is true; the pig has a developed ejaculation method that boggles the
mind and will change the way you look at Porky Pig forever, plus brings new
meaning to his catchphrase, “That’s all folks!” – I guess I’d be stuttering too
after thirty minutes!

My heart goes out to the unfortunate Kermit
the Frog…that poor, poor puppet. It is no wonder that Miss Piggy regularly
flies into violent rages when she has experienced a thirty-minute session in
her life and unreasonably expects the same performance from a frog. Kermit is
accustomed to tadpoles and pondlife, while Miss Piggy is demanding a marathon
romp in the mud. I am no psychologist but even I can see her violence stems
from sexual frustration, perhaps she should spend a night with Gonzo and get it
out of her system.

Did you also know that a pig doesn’t sweat?
This means that not only is he pumping away for half-an-hour, but he also won’t
need a shower or apologise for any embarrassing buttock sweat stains on the
bedding. It was ten years ago that scientists cloned Dolly the Sheep, but it
seems to me that they should be focusing upon DNA from pigs. Forget Viagra
pills and deodorant, an injection of pig hormones will put the pork back into
your sausage.

The more information I uncover about pigs,
the more I am beginning to think that insults, such as pig-headed, male pig,
eat like a pig, are bordering on compliments. Pigs are the third most
intelligent mammal, after man and dolphins, and are one of a few mammals to be
prone to sunburn, which explains why you rarely see them on package holidays to
the Mediterranean.

As I write this column on the unlikely
topic of pigs and mating, a number of clearer understandings have struck me,
such as the reason why Piglet is so nervous, what drove Napoleon’s tyranny in Animal Farm and why two of the Three
Little Pigs couldn’t be bothered to build strong houses. Anyway, I hope this
will be one of the stranger articles inspired by the Chinese New Year you will
read over the coming month and I also think it is a shame that China isn’t
hosting the Games this year because they could have renamed them the

Articles Misc

Finnish cinema reaches abroad

industry is suffering, however, as public funding has failed to follow the
production costs – not even the general inflation. Film production pays more
taxes than it gets in support, plus most of the budget is spent on human
labour. The audience wants the films, the process dynamically benefits the
society, but politicians have failed to react to this. I think it is a shame.

life attitude still affects Finnish politics. Art and cinema does not feel like
"work" or "real", even after the IT bubble popped it is
still relatively easy to fund things with words "mobile" or "digital"
in the business plan. I think it would be great national self-defence, a
patriotic act, to strengthen the story industry, even just for a fraction of
the cost of the, just as such important, support for technological development.

Films are
universal, eternal signs of our life and our time. Seeing films evokes
feelings, such as compassion, anger, anxiety, amusement and whatever else possible.
Feelings means being alive. Emotions can make people happy. Happiness is tax
money well spent! Therefore, making a film is a patriotic act.

Each film
producers, such as myself, looks abroad to solve a chicken and egg type of problem.
The budgets are becoming increasingly harder to secure, so we must find foreign
investors, buyers and audiences. However, how can we find those when our small
budgets make our films look old, slow and childish in comparision?

We must
spend more time making better films than whining about money.

Some great
victories have been achieved. Jade
is an example of a film that will be at the disposal of hundreds of
millions of people. The new Rölli
animation has been sold to many countries a year before its official release. I
just sold an upcoming Aku Louhimies film to the most important arthouse cinema
broadcaster in Europe, ZDF-Arte. Perhaps there is light at the end of the

language of film is international, as is the craft of making films. Every
production company receives more and more job applications from non-native
Finns, although the odds for these applicants are not too good. They lack the
network of contacts built during years of filmwork and film schools. Making
English the production language can restrict some older members of the film
society from working on the projects. Still, these foreign people will bring
invaluable aspects and experiences with them to Finnish cinema.

their problem can be a part of solving the film export issue.
Keep applying and we will keep trying!

Articles Misc

Art makes the world go around

American producer had bought a super yacht with the revenue he made with his
last film. “What about the rest of the money then?” Biotechnics shares was the answer. 

The Greek
producer had remained silent and the other two turned to him and asked what he
had bought with the revenue from his latest film? “A tape recorder”, he
replied. “And what about the rest of the money?”, the other two asked. 

”My mom
lent me the rest”, the proud Greek said. 

You could
replace Greece with Finland and there would be no difference. Filmmaking in a
country of five million is business wise nearly as absurd as agriculture in
these freezing and dark latitudes. But it is a well-known fact that once you
have food, shelter and health, money has little influence in happiness. Greed
is not the strongest motivator in life. (I was once close to starting a joint
film production company with an Icelandic colleague – it would’ve been called Lust, Envy & Greed Ltd). 

It is
incredibly rewarding to work on something that feels meaningful. This explains
why nurses, teachers, policemen and many others keep on working hard despite
minuscule pay. Feeling of something bigger also motivates film workers, who
joggle their lives between short but exhausting 50-hour weeks and months of
unemployment without hope. 

working on commercials get better paid than when working on film – even though
it is the same people doing the same kind of job. But the absence of something
bigger – a meaning, be it art, innovation or just ambitious entertainment –
must be financially compensated for. 

There is
not much glamour in actual film life. In Finland, actors do not have vans with
Jacuzzis. They take public transport to the shoot and eat cold food on
disposable paper plates during lunch breaks. Of course, they feel mistreated
and underpaid, which is also true. But there is a lot of truth in the English
language – the verb play refers to both a child’s playing, and acting. What a
luxurious job it is to get paid for having fun! 

Some people
think that people working in the creative business are privileged. It is very
true. But it also true of everybody who knows that their work makes the world
just a little bit better – or at least more bearable.

Antonio's blog Blogs

Between guerrilla and rock stars

I was introduced
to Edén Pastora a couple of days ago during the party held by the Finnish Film
Foundation, where they had an overview of the Finnish films that will be
released in the present year. Being honest, I had no idea that Edén Pastora
himself was coming to Helsinki
to assist to the Documentary festival, and I neither had much idea about the
history behind him.

Once I met him, I
felt thirsty to know about his actions and biography, so I researched a bit in
Internet. I got impressed, not only because the man is a real legend, but also
because even my parents knew very well about him!

Once more, this
teaches me that there is no day I go to sleep without having learnt something
new. And this is exactly what I love about the journalistic job: To have the
chance to meet so many different people, with such interesting background, and
be able to communicate that to the readers. To find that interesting angle,
anecdote, history, detail or whatever else that I would love to have learnt
myself if I were on the other side, as the reader of the article or the
listener of an interview.

Half an hour after
shaking hands with Edén and wishing him all the best, I am on the phone,
involved in a long distance call talking to Mick Cervino, top class bass
player, who has worked with huge names of rock scene such as Blackmore or
Mamlsteem. Recently, he visited Finland
as a member of the Swedish guitar player’s band, but this time the interview
was centered on his personal new project “Violent Storm”. You will have soon
the exclusive interview available the web page of FREE! Mick was very nice, and
we had a relaxed chat in English and Spanish (since he was born in Argentina).

I suppose that
these days , and the feeling of having the unique opportunity to be a
privileged one to get to know so much interesting people compensates the big
effort that is to start with a new publication in a foreign country. It is
really hard and stressful sometimes to take so many decisions, or even
yesterday I almost froze when I got lost in Vuosaari trying to find a place
where I had to make some business related to FREE!, but on the other hand, I
feel so satisfied that my curiosity for getting to know new stories, new people
and new angles to offer to the readers is totally fulfill with this project
that I hardly can sleep last nights, just thinking what new and exciting
encounters we will have in the future. And of course, you are very welcome to
be there to read it!

Books Interviews

Mikael Niemi: A warm writer from the North

We have the good luck to meet him in the
offices of his Finnish publishing house, few minutes before flying back to his
home in the Swedish Artic Pole. A trip of 10 hours leading him to his village
of  only 2000 citizens not far from the
Finnish border: Pajala. Mikael has spent the week end in Helsinki promoting his
new book: The man who died like a salmon
(Mies joku kuolli kuin lohi), and
feels surprise about how the author of this interview, coming from a southern
warmer country, can live in Finland’s capital. I wonder the same about his life
in such a remote place as Pajala is.

“I am a typical northern person, so my
mentality is from the north. I was growing up there, my father is from Pajala
and my people too. We have our minority there, we speak Finnish , my surname is
Finnish “Niemi”, my father first language was this typical Meänkieli, different
from the Finnish spoken in Finland,
but still related, and it is about my roots. I love to be there. I love skiing
for example. I do 1000 kilometres in total during the winter and of course, and
then I also write. I have my family there, I have 3 kids, and I like that they
are growing up in my own culture, and I think I am lucky to live there. When I
was younger I was living in Helsinki
for one year, because I had a girlfriend here. I also lived in Stockholm, but I think that Pajala is

must be a very beautiful place to live

I like it, but some people say that it is
too dark and too cold, but we are very warm people, to balance the situation…

have now this new book whose title in Finnish is
joku kuolli kuin lohi, The man who died like a salmon. In Popular Music book, we
could find also a funny title in the Finnish version (The title literally
translated meant Popular Music from the cunt). Is it your personal choice when
choosing the titles?

Yes, I always make my own title, and it is
very important to have a good one, I started as a poet, and it is very
important that the language contains a lot of poetry. I was also a very bad
musician, I was composing my songs, so I work a lot with the titles, and I am
very satisfied with this one. I think that is poetic, but a bit brutal and
strange at the same time.


write your originals in Swedish. Why not in Meäkieli, the Finnish dialect
spoken in Tornionlaakso, the region where Pajala is?

Because it is not my language, it is my father’s
language. But in 1960´s, people were ashamed of using it, cause of the
oppression from the state. They were afraid of us speaking Finnish, so we would
like to have independents thoughts. It is about history, so Sweden was very
nationalistic years ago. This is the same case all around Europe,
but we never wanted a nation or our own land or belong to Finland, We
only wanted to have our own culture and feel proud of it. When I grew up, my
father never taught me Finnish. I learnt from the streets, from my friends,
from speaking when I am hunting with my friends, so I know a bit, but not too
well to write it. Meänkieli did not have a written language, and efforts
started very recently to try to write down this language. So people are
developing the grammar, or rules to spell the word.


So it
is a language under construction…

Yeah, it is under construction,  and you have to make that with every word, so
it is complicated but very interesting at same time. That also means that we
have very few books written in meänkieli. Some authors are writing in
meänkieli, very few, but then you have the problem that people cannot read it,
so they are not used to see their language in letters.


father spoke Meänkieli, your mum Swedish, you grandmother Sámi, and you are
married to a Dutch woman. What language do you speak at home?

At home, we have 3 children and we decided
from the start that she should speak only her language to the children. It is
not Flemish, but Frisian, a minoritarian language too in the north of Holland, so we have the
same situation in that aspect. So my children speak Frisian and Swedish, and
then we try to learn a little more of meänkieli too.


with your wife, do you speak English?

No, my wife speaks perfect Swedish; she is
very good in languages. My oldest son, who is 9 years old now, is very good in
languages, so he can learn now other languages like English. He goes to Holland and talks to
people there in good Frisian, so it is fantastic to see how he can speak much
better than me. This could have happened to me, I could have had fluent
knowledge of meänkieli and Swedish, but it was not allowed at that time. It was
considered to be bad.


you explain us a bit more about the plot of your new book?

{quotes}It is a criminal story, so it starts with a
murder of an 89 years old man in Pajala.
{/quotes} He was working in the customs when he
was younger, to guard the border between Finland and Sweden, and he
is very aggressive to the minority language. He is a symbol of the oppression,
although he belongs to the same culture as well. So he is murdered and a woman
comes from Stockholm,
a police officer called Therese Fossnes and she starts the investigation. She
cannot speak any Finnish and does not know anything about the culture. She is
watching reindeers for the first time in her life. So she is in her own
country, but it is like another world for her. I am using here the conflict of
culture collision, conflict of woman against the man “macho” strong society, and
she is a very strong woman as well. She meets a man from Pajala whom suspected
to be the murderer and then they start to get to know better, so there is love
in the story as well. The book will be translated soon to English.


grade of self involvement do you have in the novel?

I am much involved too. I put a lot of real
people in the book. I am using around 40 real people of Pajala in the book, and
for instance, at the beginning there is a woman who takes care of old people,
and she finds the dead body, and she is an existing person


Mikael looks for some papers and show us
pictures of real people and places in Pajala that appear in his novel.


is the reaction of the people when they see themselves in the story of your

Well, I ask them for permission, I always
say “Do you want to be in my book?” and everybody says “yes!” I had also a
chapter about hunting, I am a hunter too. My father is in that chapter and my
hunting friends too. They appear with the real names. And everybody gets a free
copy of the book…


So at
the end, the entire village wants to appear in your book!

Yeah, some people told me “Why am I not in
the book? You should put me in the next one!


you said, there is not much written tradition for Meänkieli, it is coming
mostly from oral tradition and stories. So which are the sources from where you
get to hear the stories?

In our culture, in some special occasions,
people start to tell stories, and then I always listen with “big ears”. Now I m
starting to tell them myself, cause when you are getting a bit older, I am 47
now, then you start to tell stories also, about people who lived there or
special things that happened in our area. It is really wonderful, and I get a
lot of energy from that. So I tell to those people that they are authors also,
they do not write books, but they have the language, the ability to tell.


was your father also telling you stories?

Well, my father was a quiet man. He was
telling sometimes. He was a policeman, and actually that is also a great
motivation for me to write the police story in this new book. Sometimes he told
me about some dramatic things that happened during his police job. Many times
he told me “you must never write about this!” “It is a secret” and I always
answer, ok, I will not write about it now, but I don’t know if I can keep this
promise forever, because they were very good stories, so as a writer I feel the
need to collect them.


you satisfied with the
Popular Music movie version?

Yes, I like it. Of course it was much
shorter than the book, but well, some people said to me that the movie was ok,
but the book better, so I could just answer to them “Thank you!


the book became so popular, no bigger company made you an offer to film
something with bigger stars?

Yes, I had propositions, but I wanted the
movie to be recorded in Tornionlaakso, I wanted to be shot there, and I wanted
also to have some Finnish meänkieli there. It was important from our culture,
and the producers from other big countries like Germany or Denmark wanted it to
be shot in south Sweden or in studios, and they wanted to dub the actors, so I
preferred to do it in Pajala, and it was very good, many hundreds of people
there participated in the movie. For example, my mother was in 2 scenes, my
wife also appeared in the movie, and a lot of young people who could be actors
for first time in their lives, so it was fantastic to see that experience for
the people.
{quotes}As an anecdote, when they were making the scene for the sauna
competition, they had a real sauna, and it was real hot.
{/quotes} It took many hours to
film it.
The director said to one Finnish actor “Could you do it like if you
were dying”, and the actor answered “I am dying!”, and he fainted, he was
really ill, and was taken from Pajala by ambulance to reanimate him. They were
going to stop the filming, but they had still one important scene to do, so the
actor came back to the sauna again. That really showed some Finnish “sisu”!.


or Rolling Stones?

I prefer Beatles, but I also like the
Stones. We played with my band covers like Brown
. When I saw the Stones in Stockholm,
they started the concert with that song, so I felt a high feeling, like if they
were playing it especially for me.


are The Beatles your favourite all time band?

I would say yes, but I listen to a lot of
music. I can listen to hip hop, techno, hard rock, trash metal… I also follow
new bands, and when I have the opportunity to go to a concert, I try to see
them on live, because I love live music and rock and roll.  I play also some harmonica, accordion,
guitar, piano, just for myself. But I think I am a better writer than musician
(laughs). But I love music and it is very important for me in my lifestyle. For
example, I also love Hendrix, he was a genius! In my science fiction book,
there is one part where people go to heaven, and there is a Jimi Hendrix’s gig
every night!


you feel pressure when releasing a new book into the market?

I felt some pressure when I wrote a science
fiction book after Popular Music (Nahkakolo), but now it is not like that
anymore. With this new book I did not feel pressure. Writing is my hobby more
than job. I get a lot of good feelings, it is fun to sit and be many hours
writing and writing. Many people do not understand it, but I love it, it is my
life!. That is why I write, and then of course I try to publish. When Popular Music book was finished, 2 big
companies said no to the publication (it was not still a success in Sweden),
they thought that sounded very strange, and the 3rd company was Like
who took the risk. So it was not easy to publish in Finland first. But it is a good
question how you deal with expectations. I stopped to read reviews, I do not
read them anymore, because they change my mind in a bad way, and I do not want
to write for money, but for my heart. My creativity should come from my heart
and from my soul, so that is why I try not to think about money or success.
That is very easy in Pajala. They ask me how is to be famous in Pajala, and I
say that in Pajala, every one is famous, I go in the street and I talk like
them, I act like them, I go hunting like them, so I am only one more there.

Inside Finland Travel

It’s winter again!

Ski Resorts and other fun activities!
The biggest resorts are in northern and central Finland.For example, near to Kittilä there are a number of ski resorts near to eachother: Ylläs, Olos and Levi. Other well-known ski resorts such as Saariselkä, Luosto,Pyhä and Ruka are in Lapland.

In central Finlandthere are a few excellent ski resorts, including Tahko and Himos. The slopesare kept in excellent condition throughout the season, which begins in Novemberand lasts until May in Lapland and is little bit shorter in southern Finland.

Winter is fun in Finland

You will find most slopes – and the longest one with lights,at almost 3 kilometres long – in (sometimes very windy) Ylläs. Almost all of the biggest ski resorts say that they have the steepest slope, and while it is difficult to say where the steepest slope is actually located, in the biggest resorts you will find both steep and gently sloping hills. Ruka is said to be good place to start skiing because there are long and easy slopes in addition to a few steeper ones. According
the rumours the best after ski parties will be found in Levi, Ylläs and Ruka. The essential thing, when you choose where to go, is what you want to do: ski, snowboard or do other activities.

All of the ski resorts mentioned here offer different kind of activities in addition to downhill skiing. These activities may be, for example, reindeer safaris, snowmobile excursions and snowshoe hiking. All visitors will find something fun to do and there are activities for kids as well, including smaller hillsides just for smaller skiers and rooms where they can play games. No matter how old you are, you can take lessons in skiing and you can also hire equipment. And when you once learn to ski (and believe me it is like riding a bike: once you learn, you will never forget how to do it!) you can just buy a ski pass and go!

Reindeer safaris are also a lot of fun. Usually, the master harnesses the reindeers while you sit in the sleighs under warm reindeer fur and head for a route through a snowy landscape. After a while the reindeer are given a break, and you will enjoy a cup of coffee or hot chocolate while sitting by the campfire. During the day you will get lot of information about reindeer and the master is happy to answer to any questions you may have.

If you don’t feel like rolling in the snow you can always spend a day at the gym or have a massage. And of course you will find several saunas in all of the resorts. What would be better than a hot sauna after a day in the snow? It doesn’t get more Finnish than that!

You can wine and dine in the restaurants and if you feel like dancing there are several bars and nightclubs in the area. As a rule you can find a supermarket, souvenir shop, pharmacy, doctor, post office and liquor shop in the ski resorts and most of the staff are used to serving foreign guests in different languages, especially English. In spite of the long distance from Helsinki the transportation to these resorts is very well organized; you can catch a bus or a train to get there, or to savesome time, you can catch a flight to a nearby airport.

When you choose the ski resort you should pay attention to the location, the length of the slopes, and other activities provided. And don’t wait too long when you want to make a reservation for flights and accommodation, because the resorts are often quite busy especially during high season. And you may want to consider the cost of your holiday as well. The price level in the high seasons (during the school holidays) and weekends is relatively high. In general the resorts have good deals for the first snow at the beginning of the season.


Winter is fun in Finland

In addition to downhill skiing, cross-country skiing is a very popular sport all over the country. There are lots of excellent trails from which to choose. There are many places in Helsinki where you can ski and you don’t even have to own your own gear. For example in Paloheinä, which is the most poplar place to ski in Helsinki, the average skiing season runs from November to April and the tracks are anywhere from a few to ten kilometres long. And if you think that the skis are too slippery and you are afraid of losing your balance, you can always do some snowshoe walking!

Country skiing is a brilliant way to explore the winter landscape and a very good way to exercise your muscles, or just take it slow and enjoy the white landscape. After the trip into the nature (and making a few snow angels), you may want to warm yourself up with hot chocolate with a hint of mint liqueur.

The best thing about cross-country skiing is that you don’t even have to go to the ski resorts to do that, because there are trails everywhere. And more good news: the ski trails are free for everyone. The peak season for skiing is from January to March.

And after all of that white stuff, the most magical sights of Finnish winter are the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis. They are very common in northern Finland and occasionally you can even see them in Helsinki. Imagine a silent, dark night, the sky full of green and yellow colour. It is an amazing phenomenon that you should see at least once in your lifetime!

Features Music

On the pursuit of the perfect plate

music and sound systems

The reggae scene in Finland is currently
doing better than ever. Over the
years there has been a strong underground movement, but only
recently it has broken through to mainstream. In addition to the flow of Finnish
reggae music, sound systems are gaining more and more attention and are
becoming known to the public.

In short, a sound system means a group of people,
most notably a DJ (Disk Jockey) and an MC (Master of Ceremony), who play reggae
music at parties. A sound system does not include a live band. Instead, they
rely on the Jamaican tradition of playing recorded music to the audience. Thus,
an important part of the sound system is the arsenal of vinyl and the style in
which the records are played.

An essential aspect of reggae culture is the
concept of sound clash. Sound systems compete against each other in sound
clashes, where the idea is to “murder” the rival sounds by playing better
records. Special records, dubplates, are needed if one wants to qualify. In
addition, the wordplay of the MC is also a crucial weapon.


the mpv sound

FREE! Magazine took an inside look in the
sound system culture by interviewing Andor, the DJ of one of the leading sound
systems in Finland, MPV.

MPV is a Helsinki-based sound system. It has
gained reputation and a fine bunch of followers by providing energetic dances
and competing successfully in sound clashes. Who are the members of MPV and how
did it all get started?

MPV consists of Nestori the MC and Andor the
DJ. One MC and one DJ, as the man would say. The first gig was on New Year’s
Eve 2005. I joined MPV when I returned to Finland from Holland in summer 2005.

The most visible part of the sound system’s
activity is performing in
front of a live audience. What makes MPV strong in live situations?

Nestori and his energy on the mic! Energy
also flows to the dance floor from behind the turntables. We want to offer
people something which we would like to hear in a dance ourselves. A crucial
thing is the selection of records, which builds the atmosphere and has a proper
amount of hooks and humour in it. It’s important to be in contact with the
audience – music has to stir the soul and leave people both fulfilled and
yearning for more.

Managing a sound system requires a lot of
time, effort and, naturally,
money. How much does it actually take if one wants to have a fully operational,
professional sound system?

It’s a big part of life. The running of the
sound system takes all the
time I can give to it. It requires a lot of work in different areas:
finding out and ordering the latest hits, playing shows, making mixes, remixing
songs. Organizing the recording of dubplates and mixing them is important, too.



A dubplate is a custom-made special record,
often a re-recording of a hit tune with altered lyrics. They are played at
dances, but more importantly, in sound clashes. How does MPV obtain these
special seven-inchers?

We get dubplates both from Finnish and Jamaican
artists. There are some studios in Jamaica with which we have been
cooperating. It all depends on how good a business partner one is able to find.
In some cases there has been a great deal of teeth-grinding included. If an
artist is performing in Finland, due to touring schedules the recording can
take place at very awkward hours, such as late at night or early in the

It’s a long way from here up north to the
West Indies, both geographically
and mentally. Is it difficult to acquire dubplates from desired
Jamaican artists?

Usually it’s quite possible to get what one
wants. The prices have risen in the last couple of years, though, and some
artists may ask for large sums of money.

Getting dubplates can be a risky business.
The artists might record dubplates in long sessions. At the end of these
sessions the quality can vary. Getting a superb dubplate is not easy; a good
plate is powerful both musically and lyrically. What dubplates is MPV the most
proud of?

Gonna Put on an MPV Shirt
(a version of Max Romeo’s
hit, I Chase the Devil – ed), which has kind
of become a signature tune for us. Derrick Parker, Gyptian, Million Stylez and
Luciano have done a great job too. MPV has also lot of quality Finnish
dubplates, for example from Finnish reggae artists Jukka Poika, Nopsajalka,
Raappana and Janhoy. We have dubplates from other genres too, such as from
Mariska and Don Johnson Big Band. Finnish dubplates are usually of very high quality.
The lyrics are written with thought.


to the future

The Finnish reggae scene is strong at the
moment; lots of sounds have started operating lately. How have things developed
in recent years?

{mosimage}The development has been wild. It is unbelievable
how strongly clashes and dubplates have broken into the scene. Soon we will be
on an international level. The audience has kept up pretty well, too. On the
other hand, hits from Jamaica come ashore faster nowadays.

It’s important to understand that although
Jamaican music is usually
associated with the “one love” idea, the reality in the dancehalls
in Kingston might be a little different. Sound clashes can be total war, albeit
musical and verbal. In the future the competition between sound systems will
probably get fiercer in Finland, too.

The standards will get higher. At the
moment there are few sounds in Finland
that do things on a professional level. There are lot of rising stars, but not
anyone can invest as much as it takes to be on the top. I wouldn’t necessarily
want the competition to get much fiercer than this.

Jamaican popular culture has always been very
dynamic, constantly changing shape and moving in new directions. Being able to
react to changes makes one vital in this culture. What kind of moves does MPV
have in store for the future?

To the top! I will soon go to Jamaica, with the
intention of bringing inspiration and spice to our thing. MPV has a view in the
right direction, but the road there will be built with care. Better things are yet
to come! In conclusion, I’d like to give respect to Komposti, Lion Head and all
the other sound systems. And of course to all the people who enjoy themselves
dancing or just listening to the music.

At the cinema Cinema

A forbidden affair

follows the complicated love-story between
Mikko, a middle-aged professor of literature (Kari Heiskanen) and his star pupil, the quiet, epileptic Sari (Krista Kosonen). Sari’s condition has
caused her to retreat from normal life, while Mikko’s fascination with 19th century
poetry is slowly alienating him from his family and colleagues; that is, until
the kindred spirits meet and begin their forbidden affair. The relationship
naturally causes a lot of friction, but Mikko and Sari manage to stick together
until the world accepts them, at least to some extent.

Visually, Saarela’s film is top-notch: Helsinki, for once, actually
looks like it’s a part of Europe and the
cinematography is captivating, especially when complemented by Tuomas Kantelinen’s beautiful score. Overall
the acting is decent, although Kosonen at times has trouble with the demanding
role, and it shows – luckily Heiskanen is usually there to pick her up. Worse,
the last third of the film gets confusing as a lot of plot lines are
artificially smoothed over (or ignored entirely), making the film seem like it
was wrapped up haphazardly and in a hurry.

{mosimage}It’s not that Suden Vuosi is a bad film, far from it – it’s just that its story
and style once again have difficulties keeping in synch with each other,
resulting in a film that builds up a lot of steam but ultimately falls flat
since the low-key story does not seem to demand such grand, over-the-top
imagery – like a faculty christmas party that looks like a rave (those classic
literature people sure know how to par-tay)
or a dramatically-lighted, erm, poetry lecturer doing push-ups – it’s just completely
out-of-place and silly, Aleksi Mäkelä
style. Somebody please get Saarela an honest-to-god action/thriller film to
direct – I want to see him do the Finnish Last
Boy Scout
, so just give the man a script.

At the cinema Cinema

Perfume: the repeated story of a failed adaptation

21 years later,
the cinema version based on the best-seller is finally released, under the
direction of Tom Tykwer, who started
to get success after his superb piece “Run Lola Run” in 1998.

The story is well
known by many: we follow the biography of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw), a fishmonger’s bastard
with a superb talent: he has the best and most developed sense of smell in the
world, intoxicated by the sweet fragrance of young women that will turn him
into not only the best perfumer of all times, but also a serial killer.

Framed by 18th
century in France,
the atmosphere and photography of the film is totally captivating. The
spectator gets immersed in the din of Paris,
the sumptuous villas, the corners of the smaller towns… All the social strata accurately
represented in front of the eyes – or should we say the nose? – of Jean

{mosimage}Ben Whishaw´s
acting skills are not bad, but the treatment of the character seems ridiculous
in some scenes. I remember, many years ago when reading voraciously the pages
of Süskind´s book, to feel pity for the main character, to support him until
the last and climatic episode of his life, and to develop a clear sympathy for
his weaknesses, although this would mean the killing of young women. But the
sad and famished Jean Baptiste does not have the same effect in the film.
Sometimes it just look like a parody of a little animal,  a being just a little bit more humanized than
“Gollum/Smeagol” from Lord of the Rings, and even Tolkien´s character was able to create a closer relationship with
the spectator. The film results in being too long and I could not avoid some
yawning before the end of it.

A couple of
glorious contributions save most of the credit: one from Dustin Hoffman, superb in his role of Giuseppe Baldini, the old
master perfumer. The other, the long red hair of Rachel Hurd-Wood that brightens like fire in every second that this
English beauty appears on screen. A delightful vision all over the movie.

With great power
comes great responsibility. Grenouille did not control the power of his nose,
and Tykwer, the director, has neither succeeded in the great responsibility
over his shoulders to transmit the same energy than the book exhales. Twenty-one
years has been too long awaiting time for this result.

Books Features

Of pigs and ducks

{mosimage}This will come as no surprise to anybody as
the Aku Ankka weekly magazine is still the biggest-selling magazine in Finland.
In few other countries does Donald Duck gain such great popularity as in
Finland. In the US, for example, sales of a Donald Duck magazine are
practically non-existent, Alas, if you hold any illusions that this all due to
Finnish craftsmanship and quality work, I must disappoint you. As these things
go in this globalised world, the actual work for Donald Duck is done in small
animation studios around the world and then assembled and translated by
separate companies. Finnish artists are hardly involved in this process. Since
this article deals with Finnish comics, we should therefore focus on other

To get an understanding of the Finnish
comic market one must first realize that the reading market is not so large.
With a total population of around 5.2 million, the potential readership of
comics is going to be rather small, of course. Even more so, since the
popularity of this medium has been in a steady decline since the fifties. In
actual numbers this means for example that the book Persepolis (a memoir of the
young Iranian Marjane Satrapi moving to Europe) was considered a surprising
bestseller even though sales did not peak over 5,000.

But even though the whole comics scene is
small in size, the production is surprisingly high and of good quality. Proof
of that can be found in the growing interest abroad in what’s happening around
here. Finnish artists were asked this year to show their works in several
exhibitions during important comic festivals in France, Holland and Belgium.
Also, many works by Finnish artists are being translated and published in
English and French.

Comic books that sell well here are not
particularly popular elsewhere. Every country has their own equivalent of
newspaper humour strips like “Viivi ja Wagner” or “Virtanen” so who in France
or Germany would be interested in reading these comics? On the other hand, the
young and sometimes rather unknown artists that make their own brand of
alternative comics are appealing to foreign readers. Names like Tommi Musturi,
Ville Ranta, Matti Hagelberg, Marko Turunen, Kati Kovacs may not ring a bell to
many readers but they are widely known amongst comic connoisseurs abroad.

{mosimage}Ville Ranta, for example, is a comic artist
living in Oulu who started his own publishing company, Asema, in 2000, through
which he has published several books. Lewis Trondheim, one of the biggest names
in French comics nowadays and founder of the renowned l’Association publishing
company, specifically asked Ville to put together a comic album. The result is Célébritz
(Dargaud), a witty satire on our celebrity-obsessed society. The main character
invents a pill which turns people into instant idols but the fame lasts only
from 3 seconds to two weeks. Ville’s own work is mostly autobiographical in
nature and he draws in a loose, sketchy way. Earlier this year, however, Ville
Ranta was the focus of plenty of media attention after being banned from the
Kaltio culture magazine and being censored by too-careful Finnish politicians
of the Oulu city administration due to the whole Mohammed cartoon craze. In his
banned comic strip, Ville and the prophet Mohammed have an animated discussion
about Islamic and western differences and later Tarja Halonen and Matti
Vanhanen are shown burning the Danish flag “as a sign of friendship towards the
Muslim world”. As an hilarious comment on the always-overcautious Finnish
foreign policy this worked quite well, but three major sponsors of Kaltio left
and the chief editor was fired.  When the
whole media attention had died out, however, Oulu city rehired Ranta as an
illustrator for the Snellman book they had been planning.

Matti Hagelberg has also been published by
l’Association and several magazines all over the world (most notably Blab in
the States) thanks to his well-known scratchy drawing technique and absurd
storytelling. His 200-page masterpiece about Urho Kekkonen (published by Otava
in 2004) has also been translated into Swedish.

A third name to keep an eye open for is
Tommi Musturi, who is not only the editor of Glömp magazine (more about that
later) but he most recently gained fame with First Book of Hope, which has
already been published in French. This comic (in English) captures very nicely the
mental state of a typical middle-aged Finnish man who contemplates his lost
childhood. While stuffing himself with greasy food and complaining about his
missing longjohns he mumbles to himself and engages in countryside activities
such as building a bird’s nest, going to the sauna and walking in the forest. The
Second Book of Hope is scheduled in January 2007 and will be simultaneously
published in English and French. Otava will at the same time publish The First
Book of Hope in Finnish.

One event is marked in red in the calendars
of every Finnish comic lover and artist; the yearly comic festival in Helsinki.
During this occasion, which usually takes place on the third weekend of
September, the whole comics industry comes together and presents their newest
publications side by side. The 2006 comic festival gathered more than 6,500
visitors over its two-day period and his been growing in popularity quite
rapidly these last few years. It is no wonder, because the main guest of this
year, Garth Ellis, said it was “the best small-sized comic festival I have ever
attended”. Lectures, exhibitions and sometimes hilarious stage acts entertain a
mixed crowd of comics collectors, artists, urban hipsters and families with

The comic world is in general very male
oriented. In the States, 90% of the comic readers are male, and female comic
artists are just a handful. The comic stores are considered safe havens for young
nerds and sweaty, unwashed comic collectors. This is nicely illustrated in The Simpsons with the Comic Book Guy
character, a sarcastic 45-year-old overweight virgin who still lives with his
mother. Girls hardly ever enter a comic book store, and why would they? There
are no books that they would be interested in and they would be scared away by
the clientele and staff alike. In Finland, however, the situation is a bit
healthier. From the top of my head I can list at least 10 female comic artists:
Jenni Rope, Kati Kovacs, Katja Tukiainen, Roju, Kaisa Leka, and Tiitu being
among the most important. In Tampere the Irtoparta magazine (False Beard, comes
with English translation sheets) publishes female cartoonists only and has
already 7 issues out. I honestly don’t think there’s any other country where
the female presence is so strong in the comics scene. The readership also is
almost equally divided.

{quotes}A good start for getting to know the
artists listed here would to buy comic anthologies such as Laikku or Glömp.
They feature a healthy array of all the up and coming Finnish comic artists and
come with complete English translations on the bottom of each page. The 8th
issue of Glömp especially was critically well-received and managed to sell out
completely in a matter of months. It should still be available in several
stores, though. The book is a colourful 225-page collection of experimental
graphics and painful youth trauma stories shown with every possible drawing
technique. To illustrate the international appeal of this book (and Finnish
comics in general) even more, a quarter of all copies were sold in the States.

The main problem with all these fine books
is finding them in the stores. Print runs often don’t exceed 1,000 copies, and
when they are sold out, there’s very little chance of reprinting. Nationwide
distribution as well has proven to be very difficult. It might take some
digging and snooping around in several bookstores to actually get your hands on
these books. Fortunately, the libraries usually have a good collection of
homegrown comics in the adult comics department. If you would be willing to
sample these Finnish comics, they are out there – just go and track them down.
The lucky finders will be rewarded with some good reading material.

Art Features

Villa Didrichsen: architecture and art


The museum is a masterpiece in itself. Because of the architecture: like many other buildings by famous Finnish architect Viljo Revell, Villa Didrichsen is not just another L-shaped building but a perfect blend of art, architecture and nature. And because of the location: built in 1957 on the shore of the Laajalahti, the villa enjoys a beautiful vista of the sea.

The history of the Didrichsen museum dates back to 1942 when Gunnard Didrichsen, a Danish businessman living and working in Helsinki, and his wife Marie-Louise bought a painting called ‘Ateria’ painted in 1899 by Pekka Halonen. At first, the couple focused on Finnish art of the 19th century, but they grew more and more interested in more modern paintings. In time, and sometimes with the help of Aune Lindstrom, at the time director of Ateneum, the Didrichsens ventured to purchase masterpieces like Pablo Picasso’s Artist at work, Wassily Kandinsky’s Church in Murnau, Fernand Léger’s Nature morte à la coupe, whilst increasing their collection of Finnish artists with the works of the likes of Helene Schjerfbeck – whose exhibition last year collected an impressive number of visitors and will soon tour Europe.

At the beginning of the '60s the Didrichsens also started collecting pre-Columbian and Eastern art pieces, now on display in the museum. In 1963 a foundation was settled to take care of the works of art and in a few years a new wing was added to the villa built by Revell. In September 1965 the museum was opened to the public, who could thus contemplate the family’s masterpieces. Already in 1968 it hosted the first exhibition with loans from other museums and galleries.

“The family was at the time living in the villa and Marie-Louise took care of the museum, from exhibits organization to tickets sale” tells Maria Didrichsen, head of exhibitions: “the last exhibition she organized before dying in 1988 was a Henry Moore memorial exhibition in January 1987. It was one of the first organized in the whole world, and the Didrichsen museum was able to do it because of the personal friendship that linked Moore and the Didrichsen family”.

Henry Moore’s masterpieces will return to Didrichsen in spring next year. Meanwhile, from January 27 to July 17 the museum will host Nella luce italiana – Italian valossa, a collection of paintings by Elin Danielson-Gambogi, a Finnish painter born in 1861, who lived part of her life in Italy. The exhibition will offer an opportunity to see paintings never shown before in Finland and to learn more about another interesting woman painter.

Art Features

Raimo Utriainen: mind vs passion

{mosimage}Now, for the
second round of Spring exhibitions, that will open from 8.2 until 29.4, that
path has been followed introducing one of the most remarkable figures in contemporary
Finnish art, and follower of the mathematical and geometrical lessons that
Malevich helped to spread around the world: Raimo Utriainen (1927-1994).

Utriainen´s fame
has crossed the national borders. His work can be contemplated in countries
such as Israel,
or Sweden,
and he was venerated in Japan,
where his abstract sculptures had an immediate success and exhibitions were
organized in Kamakura,
Kobe and Sapporo during 1978.

EMMA has had the
Raimo Utriainen Foundation Collection since October 2006, and with the upcoming
exhibition, the visitor will have the opportunity to contemplate a huge
different amount of material from the artist: 150 sculptures, drawings,
paintings, bronze portraits medallions and some other personal stuff that comes
mostly from the old artist’s studio that was located in Pitäjänmäki. In
addition, the WeeGee building itself, where EMMA museum is, appears as a
perfect surrounding for Utriainen´s work, having been designed by the artist´s
old friend, Aarno Ruusuvuori.

The opportunity
not only of observing his more famous side as sculptor, but also his paintings,
gives us an approach to a more personal drama in his lifestyle. Being proud of
his education with a solid background in mathematics and architecture,
Utriainen tried to hide his more romantic side as painter, where he could break
the limits that the formal structures in his sculpture represented. It was not
until 8 years before his death, in 1986, when he became older, that he allowed
this other side of his artwork to emerge in the public sphere, and show it in

Utriainen, born in
Kuopio, was
mostly interested in developing public sculptures that would suit in open
spaces. He did not make many portraits, although the few ones conserved give a
clear example of his mastery in all kinds of art fields.

{mosimage}Another of his
major influences was the Italian artist Brancusi,
and belonging to the generation of artists that studied and wrote about public
monuments after the Second World War, he remained as quite a strict defender of
the Constructivism and Modernism theories. Even when the formalities of size
and design are very much remarked upon in his work, the forms that the light
reflects in some of his sculptures are very sensual and expressive. Some of the
works you can contemplate inside the exhibition reach around three meters high!
Some others even had to be kept out of the exhibition for lack of space.

As well, the
exhibition would give a unique opportunity to take a look at his development in
his work with different materials. From the bronze used in some works during
the 1960s, like his famous “Ida Aalberg Statue”, dedicated to the actress, to
the steel and aluminium of the 1970s with his particular and personal style of
statues perfectly balanced in size, and formed by slats.

And for the
visitor, a last surprise. Not only Utriainen´s influence can be seen inside the
EMMA walls. If you just pay attention, close to the main entrance, there is
surrounded by trees a statue based on Utrianen´s miniature design.