THE OTHER KAURISMÄKI Mika Kaurismäki's newest film Sonic Mirror is a journey into the world of music and its universal power to bring people together. The critically acclaimed filmmaker's varied body of work defies categorisation. By Katja Pantzar Photographs by Wide Management, Filmikamari, Sputnik Oy, Midnight Sun Pictures f there is one name that's internationally synonymous with Finnish film, it's Kaurismäki. The prolific and prodigious output of filmmaking brothers Mika and Aki Kaurismäki has generated a cult-like following in France, Germany and many other countries. Collectively, the brothers have made close to 40 feature-length films, including several that they worked on together in the '80s during the early years of their careers. Co-founders of the renowned Midnight Sun Film Festival (see text box), the brothers co-own Helsinki's Andorra cultural complex with its popular Corona Bar and Billiards, Moskva Bar and movie theatre Kino. Aki Kaurismäki, 50, is known for his offbeat portrayals, often infused with dark wit, of Finnish life and society. His brilliant 2003 Man Without a Past was nominated for a foreign Oscar. Mika Kaurismäki, 53, has directed a diverse range of films, from the well-received 1998 comedy LA Without a Map to a series of successful Latin American music documentaries. His newest work Sonic Mirror was described by film industry bible Hollywood Reporter as: "a feel-good world music documentary with the potential to be the next Buena Vista Social Club." "It's not a typical portrait of drummer Billy Cobham; it tells a broader story 30 FOCUS 2008 I "With few exceptions, I don't think that stylistically there is a contemporary genre called `Finnish film'." about rhythm and music and their role in people's lives," says Kaurismäki. He calls Sonic Mirror "a poetic documentary" that follows the legendary percussionist as he travels from Finland to the us, Brazil and Switzerland. Beat of the heart In the film, a gentle humanity and hope emerge as Cobham teaches children in Brazil to drum, and performs with other musicians at a home for autistic patients in Switzerland. One characteristic of people who are autistic is a difficulty to respond to their environment. When the patients start moving to the music in one of the final scenes, it seems a significant breakthrough. Is music the only truly universal language? "That's what we're trying to say in this movie," answers Kaurismäki. "Everything is based on rhythm: before we're born we hear the rhythm of a beating heart. We all have rhythm in common." Music has always been a central theme in Kaurismäki's work, starting with his first film The Liar (1980), which marked the start of a new era of filmmaking in Finland with its emphasis on humour and irony. Sonic Mirror builds on his earlier music documentaries such as Moro Brazil (2002), a documentary of Brazilian music, and Brazilineiro (2005), a film about Brazilian choro music. These days the filmmaker divides his time between Finland and Brazil, where he has been based for many years. When he lived in Rio de Janeiro, he ran a live music club called Mika's Bar. He currently lives in Salvador, a smaller city on Brazil's northeast coast in the state of Bahia, where his wife is from. Bringing the spirit of Brazil to Finland, Kaurismäki recently opened Bossa & Boteco, a Brazilian restaurant and tapas bar on Helsinki's Annankatu that features live music. He is also planning
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