Mika Kaurismäki

Director, Screenwriter and Co-Producer, born in 1955 in Orimattila, Finland
Mika Kaurismäki’s first film “THE LIAR” (1980) was an overnight sensation, when first shown in Finland. It marked the beginning of the cinema of the Kaurismäki brothers and started a new era in the Finnish cinema.
After high school Mika Kaurismäki used to work as a painter of houses and apartments in a small town of Kuusankoski in the South-eastern part of Finland. In the autumn of 1976, when the winter was coming and the annual high season for painting houses was over, he thought of doing something else in life. Still wearing his painter overall, he walked into a bookstore and bought the newly published “History of Cinema” by Peter von Bagh. He started reading it from page one and decided to become a film director.
Mika Kaurismaki studied cinema in Munich, Germany, (Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen) 1977- 1981 and made his diploma film „THE LIAR“ in 1980 in Finland. His younger brother Aki Kaurismäki, then a student of journalism, played the main role and also co-wrote the screenplay. After the success of “THE LIAR”, Mika Kaurismäki decided to stay in Finland and together with his brother and some friends he founded the production company Villealfa Filmproductions that soon became a home of vital low- or no-budget film making. By the end of the 80’s it was the third biggest film production company of all time in Finland. The Villealfa film family consisted, besides the Kaurismäki brothers, of many colleagues and friends, including the actors Matti Pellonpää and Kari Väänänen and the cinematographer Timo Salminen. Mika Kaurismäki’s films of this era include among others the road movies “THE WORTHLESS” (1982) and “ROSSO” (1985), the action comedy “HELSINKI NAPOLI – ALL NIGHT LONG” (1987) and the environmental adventure “THE AMAZON” (1990). Aki Kaurismäki, who had worked as Mika’s assistant and a screenwriter, began his career as a director, when Mika produced his first film “THE CRIME AND PUNISHMENT” (1984). During the active Villealfa years, Mika co-founded the legendary Midnight Sun Film Festival (1986) and the distribution company Senso Films (1987) and the Andorra cinemas in Helsinki.
The 90’s meant a gradual disappearance of the Villealfa spirit and both Mika and Aki started to produce their films through their own production companies. Mika had founded Marianna Films in 1987 and its first independent production was the award winning “ZOMBIE AND THE GHOST TRAIN” (1991). In 1994 Mika returned to the Brazilian jungle with Samuel Fuller and Jim Jarmusch and made the feature length documentary “TIGRERO – A FILM THAT WAS NEVER MADE”. The film was awarded the International Critics’ Award at the Berlin Film Festival in 1994.
In the course of the 90’s Mika established his base and second home in Rio de Janeiro and started to concentrate more in international co-productions. In 1996, in Philadelphia, he directed the no- budget thriller “CONDITION RED” with James Russo, Cynda Williams and Paul Calderon. His biggest production so far is the comedy “LA WITHOUT A MAP” (1998), with David Tennant, July Delpy, Vincent Gallo, Johnny Depp, James Le Gros, Anouk Aimee, Joe Dallesandro etc.
The new millennium started for Mika with the production of “MORO NO BRASIL” (2002), the praised documentary of Brazilian music. During the production of this film he also opened a live music club “Mika’s Bar” in Rio de Janeiro, but gave it up later and decided to concentrate primarily in film making. In 2003 he directed “HONEY BABY”, a road movie between Germany and Russia, starring Henry Thomas, Irina Björklund and Helmut Berger. “BRASILEIRINHO”, a film about Brazilian choro music, premiered at the Berlinale 2005 and “SONIC MIRROR”, a film with legendary drummer Billy Cobham, in Nyon 2007.
In 2008 and 2009 two Mika Kaurismäki films premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival: The award winning “THREE WISE MEN” (2008) and the box-office hit “THE HOUSE OF BRANCHING LOVE” (2009). The documentary “VESKU FROM FINLAND” was released in September 2010 and was very successful both critically and at the box-office in Finland. At the end of 2010 Mika also completed his new fiction, “BROTHERS”, which will be released in the spring 2011.