News KVIFF Distribution brings Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki to cinemas

Published: February 23, 2017| 10:42 AM

On 16 March, KVIFF Distribution is bringing the Finnish movie The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki to Czech cinemas. Director Juho Kuosmanen’s enchanting black-and-white debut tells the true story of a boxer in early 1960s Helsinki as he prepares for the most important fight of his career. At a time when he feels the pressure of the media and his trainers and sponsors, he falls in love with Raija, a girl from his home village. The film, which The Independent called “one of the most likeable films of the year” won the main prize in the Un Certain Regard section at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Czech audiences could see it at the 51st Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, where it was screened in the Another View section.  

“We are proud that KVIFF Distribution is responding to the film’s fantastic reception in Karlovy Vary by presenting one of the most popular and award-winning films from last year’s Cannes Film Festival in Czech cinemas,” says Karlovy Vary IFF’s artistic director Karel Och.

The true story of a Finnish sports legend

Olli Mäki was born in 1936, and his first great success in sports was in Prague, where he placed second in the European amateur boxing championships in 1957. He won the title in 1959, and a year later went professional. In 1962, he fought the most important bout of his career –  taking on the American Davey Moore in the Boxing World Championships in Helsinki. Nearly 24,000 people watched the fight at Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium. It is against this backdrop that the unusual cinematic romance between Olli and Raija plays out.  

“I met Olli in 2011. He told me about his world championship fight, and at the end of the story he told me: ‘That was the happiest day in my life.’ In disbelief, I asked him how that could be, and he told me that he and Raija bought their engagement rings the very same day. After that, Olli’s story wouldn’t leave my mind. Why had they bought their rings on the same day? I didn’t know much about boxing, but even so it was clear to me that if you are preparing for the world championships, you should focus on the fight one hundred percent. I started to dig into Olli’s story some more, and discovered that it is full of beautiful details and that it is so complex that it stands apart from ordinary stories,” director Juho Kuosmanen says about how he came to make the film.

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki captivated critics and audiences alike at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it became the first Finnish film to win in the prestigious Un Certain Regard section. The film has been recognized above all for its distinctive aesthetic style, its perfect form, its original acting, and its original screenplay filled with warmth and humanity. The Hollywood Reporter called it a “small marvel,” while Variety praised it for its “brilliantly supple” cinematography.

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