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CPH:DOX 2023

Petri Luukkainen, Jesse Jokinen • Registi di The Gamer

"I gamer devono lottare contro lo stress ancor più dei calciatori"


- I due registi parlano del loro documentario su un gamer finlandese avviato verso il successo e che riceve aiuto da un importante psicologo di e-sport

Petri Luukkainen, Jesse Jokinen  • Registi di The Gamer
Petri Luukkainen (sinistra) e Jesse Jokinen

Questo articolo è disponibile in inglese.

Finnish gamer Verneri is good, but something always stops him from becoming the best. When he meets a top e-sports psychologist, he needs to address his issues, which is even harder than blowing his opponents to smithereens. We spoke to directors Petri Luukkainen and Jesse Jokinen about The Gamer [+leggi anche:
intervista: Petri Luukkainen, Jesse Jo…
scheda film
, which screened at CPH:DOX.

Cineuropa: Gaming is not the most cinematic of activities. Your film is a classic sports story, but it’s not Chariots of Fire. Nobody moves very much.
Petri Luukkainen:
We did the BBC series Just Boys IRL [with Jokinen as a cinematographer], where the protagonists happened to be gamers as well. That’s how we got into it. Then I met this psychologist, who is the best in e-sports. She told me that in “normal” sports, you can tackle your aggression through physical exercise. In e-sports, that’s not possible, which means that gamers have to struggle with stress even more than, say, football players. She said there is usually a reason, or a personality trait, that makes one boy sit in front of his computer for 100 hours each week. But once you are in this competitive environment, you also need social skills, interactive skills and anger management. Their mental struggles are bigger than you’d expect.

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Jesse Jokinen: Players play alone, and they don’t have a visible team around them, as they would in football or ice hockey, which I played in my youth. I had a support system of coaches, staff and so on. For an e-sport player, getting the help of a psychologist is really valuable when you take into account the nature of the game.

Your protagonist seems to be even more tortured than the rest of his team. Is that why you chose him?
Once we talked to the psychologist, we went: “Okay, now let’s go and meet some of your clients.” He is very shy but also extremely brave. Our camera comes very close, we are always in the middle of everything, and yet he decided to stay. Once we’d completed our first interviews, we said: “Wow. That’s our guy.”

JJ: There was such charisma under his thick shell. Underneath all the shyness is a huge thinker who rarely speaks, but every word is true and meaningful. This was the main reason why we ended up making a film with him.

They make for an interesting pairing, especially given it’s an environment that can be deprived of women.
The gaming world is extremely male-dominated, and it can be extremely toxic. You have a group of guys developing their own culture: they are in their bubble. But Mia is, how do I put it, amazing. She commands the room. These introverted guys don’t see her as someone who doesn’t belong there – she becomes someone special. Still, she couldn’t be the protagonist of this film: she doesn’t change. She is more of an…

...Obi-Wan Kenobi?
She is this mentor figure, that’s for sure, or a proxy for a documentary filmmaker. She is the one asking questions and setting up the scene. Although she also has her own agenda, because is it about him becoming a better person or a better player? It’s important to remember that it’s not therapy – it’s therapy-like counselling, used to gain leverage in a sport.

At one point, she asks: “Why is it so hard for young men to appreciate themselves?” They are young and white. Don’t they already hold all the power?
There is a big gap between how these men are perceived and how they want to be perceived – as strong and capable, which is where it often turns toxic. In fiction films, you always expect people to win. In documentaries, it’s more complicated. They are heading in some weird directions, and she is wondering why so many of them feel insecure.

Remembering your previous film, Petri, it seems you have always been interested in male weakness.
For sure. When I was a teenager, I started to read a lot about philosophy and religion. This inner dialogue is something I am interested in because once you look inside, you discover all of these insecurities. Jesse and I both see ourselves in Verneri. As a filmmaker, you are looking for some kind of a mirror, but we still want to tell positive stories, I think. My first film, My Stuff [about Luukkainen dealing with a breakup by putting all his belongings into storage, allowed to only retrieve one item per day] was also about fucking global warming, but I still approached it from a lighter side.

The end credits are a bit unusual, with everyone listed in alphabetical order.
In documentary, we have fairly small crews. We interact with everyone from start to finish. It would feel wrong to “value” everyone’s contribution like that. We ended up reflecting on the equality of end credits and the fact that these films are made together.

PL: For us, it was a big deal. We all know each other and we are working-class Finns who believe in equality. And yet there is this clear hierarchy, a system that puts us, as directors, above everyone else. Why? We want our industry to really think about that.

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