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Teemu Nikki and Jani Pösö • Director and Producer of A Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic

“We want to show something that’s almost impossible to show in the cinema”


- We talked to Finland's Teemu Nikki and Jani Pösö, winners of the Eurimages Lab Project Award at Haugesund for their project A Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic

Teemu Nikki and Jani Pösö •  Director and Producer of A Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic
Jani Pösö (left), Teemu Nikki (right) and friend

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, produced by Jani Pösö for It’s Alive Films, was awarded the Eurimages Lab Project Award at New Nordic Films, the special industry section of the Norwegian International Film Festival at Haugesund. “The bold artistic approach that the director and producer propose takes us deep into the universe of a blind man who has to confront the world and dive into the unknown, in the name of love,” said jurors Cia Edström, Svend Bolstad Jensen and Nino Kirtadze. “From the start, we are in the shoes of our hero and experience the world with him.”

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Cineuropa: Since this is not your first award for a pitched project [a few months ago, the duo snagged the Eurimages Co-production Development Award for Snot and Splash], do you have any thoughts on what it is that you are doing right?
Jani Pösö (JP):
Basically, we are not trying to be cleverer than we actually are. Why do we always have to be so goddamn serious? We have been developing quite a lot of entertaining content out of deadly serious subjects, and I guess it comes out in our pitches. In a way, everything we have ever made was entertaining — regardless of the subject matter. And then, we have just been really lucky lately.

In their statement, the jurors pointed out that “making a film about blindness could become a boring cinematic experience”. What are the aspects of that experience that you want to have in the film?
JP: Let’s start with Teemu’s old friend Petri [Poikkolainen], who called him up one day. They hadn’t seen each other for 20 years, but they used to be very close.

Teemu Nikki (TK): We were army buddies. He wanted to be an actor and I obviously wanted to be a director. He told me he has been following my career and was happy about how things had worked out. I asked: “How about you? Did you become an actor?” He got into acting school and was performing in many theatres until he got the MS disease. Now, he is blind and paralysed from the waist down. He can’t see and he is in a wheelchair. I was shocked. But then I thought: What the hell — he is an actor and I am a director. Should we do something together? I asked: “Do you still want to act, and would you want to play a leading role?” We knew that his disease was very aggressive, knew that we had to hurry. I wrote the script during my summer vacation and then we shot the film.

We decided to use only close-ups of his face or hands – there is one wide shot in the whole film. Blind people can’t see anything of course, but how do you show that they can smell things or hear? We decided to put plastic wrapper around the lenses, so there is only a minimal amount of sharpness. We can see what he feels, what he touches. Otherwise, the whole world is blurry.

That reminds me of what [cinematographer] Janusz Kamiński did in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, when it feels like you are looking at everything through somebody else’s eyes.
It’s quite different, but the idea is the same: to find out how to show something that’s almost impossible to show in the cinema.

JP: When Teemu came up with the idea, we thought it would make for a perfect short. After two minutes of hearing him speak, it became a feature. He was fascinated about the fact that Petri, in real life, travels alone. He wants to be a normal guy! Which is tricky, and yet he is still doing it. I would say that our film is completely fictional, but it respects the person who is living his life like that. For me, that was crucial.

TN: Then there is also the fact that Petri is a trained actor. It would have been quite easy to make a documentary, but I wanted to work with Petri the actor, not with Petri the man with disabilities. I told him I won’t go easy on him, that I will ask for as many takes as I need. He had to learn a lot of dialogue and it’s quite difficult for a blind person, so I would read him his lines. And by doing so, I often realised I should write them again [laughter]. We had the same dream when we were young, and I wanted to live this dream again. In a way, we found each other again because of this disease, which is quite strange.

JP: It is strange, but it’s also pretty empowering.

I guess it helped to have this relationship, because very often, people just focus on the disability – be it by using it for comedy purposes or building drama around it. With this award coming your way now, will you be focusing on post-production?
The picture is locked, but we are in the middle of sound design at the moment, and that’s crucial. I can’t wait to show this film when it’s finished, because it’s almost experimental. It’s such an intense film, but it’s also very entertaining. When we started, we had no idea how it would work. I haven’t seen this kind of film, ever. I was worried it would be boring, but it turned out to be maybe our best. It has been one year since we shot it and I had my share of doubts, but at the moment I feel like I am winning.

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