Oscars: Finland Selects 'The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki' for Foreign-Language Category

Hymyileva Mies -The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki-Still 1-H 2016
Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Juho Kuosmanen's feature debut won the top prize Un Certain Regard at Cannes this year.

Finland's Oscar committee on Monday unveiled that it has chosen Juho Kuosmanen's black-and-white period boxing drama The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki as its submission for the best foreign-language film category at the Academy Awards.

The film, about the build-up to the 1962 world featherweight championship title match, won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes film festival this year.

Centered on the bout between rural baker Olli Maki and the American titleholder Davey Moore, the film captivated viewers with what the Hollywood Reporter's reviewer called its "delicate balance of humor, melancholy and sensitive human insight."

Adding that any film about boxing inevitably begs comparison with "the gold standard for [the] genre," the review said Kuosmanen's film was "in a ring of its own."

Detailing the true story of a simple Finn's attempt at the world title  which ended in a humiliating knockout in the second round in front of a packed stadium, it stays true to its theme  telling the story of a man who insisted the bout was the best day of his life.

Starring Jarkko Lahti in the title role and Oona Airola as Maki's girlfriend Raija, the film, shot on 16mm black-and-white filmstock, is produced by Jussi Rantamaki for Aamu Filmcompany. Internatonal sales are being handled by Les Films du Losange.

The film is also in the list of the 50 titles nominated for this year's European Film Academy Feature Film Selection. The final list will be announced Nov. 5, with winners and awards presented at the 29th EFA Dec. 10 in Wroclaw, Poland.

Helsinki-based film critic Harri Rompotti told THR: "After winning the Cannes award, The Happiest Days in the Life of Olli Maki has swept practically all Finnish nominations for other awards too  the Nordic Film Prize, the EFA — and both the attentions and affections of the domestic cinema audience. Any other choice for the Oscars would have raised many eyebrows to say the least."