You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Punk Syndrome

A mentally challenged punk band is the unusual subject of the unusually thoughtful "The Punk Syndrome."

With: Pertti Kurikka, Kari Aalto, Sami Helle, Toni Valitalo, Kalle Pajamaa.

A mentally challenged punk band is the unusual subject of the unusually thoughtful “The Punk Syndrome.” Focusing on the handicapped head-bangers who make up the Finnish band Pertti Kurikka’s Name Day, this thin-ice-treading docu opens a window onto alternative culture, human nature and the very narrow line between so-called normal people and those on the fringe. Proper marketing could take Jukka Karkkainen and J-P Passi’s funny, edgy and very human feature into cult-hit territory, although the subject and subtitles will provide built-in limitations for this low-budget, rock-fueled verite movie.

The band’s chief songwriter, guitarist and namesake, Kurikka, is a sensitive obsessive who has a fixation with seams (as in clothing). He’s also a grizzled rocker who weeps easily and pours his heart, soul and problems into his lyrics (“Pertti has a speech defect/He can’t throw a disco party/Pertti has cerebral palsy/He can’t throw a disco party”). His bandmates make up one of the strangest punk groups in Finland, or anywhere. Drummer Toni Valitalo and bassist Sami Helle have Down syndrome; vocalist Kari Aalto is also mentally disabled and has ferocious rage issues, most of them directed at Helle, a politically conservative NGO activist who in one sequence puts a good-looking Finnish pol on the spot (she acquits herself gracefully).

That particular scene points up the unpredictability of the band members, but also the unfounded assumptions people make about them. Karkkainen and Passi’s accomplishment is to show how little distance actually exists between their subjects and those who are ostensibly well-adjusted. The oddness of the musicians, which might easily have steered the movie into mockery, is rooted mostly in their brutal honesty: Kurikka, Helle, Valitalo and Aalto basically say what they think and feel with a great deal more liberty than most people do. This may make others uncomfortable, but it also makes for sympathetic, if volatile, docu subjects.

The bluntness of the exchanges is often quite funny, as are the song lyrics (“I don’t want to live in a group home/I don’t want to live in an institution/I want to live in Kallio/In the privacy of a bomb shelter”). And the band is quite adept; live auds attending various gigs seem to start out expecting a freak show, but are soon seduced by — and dancing to — the band’s adept playing (punk rock being by definition rudimentary). Pertti Kurikka’s Name Day actually takes the bluntness and vulgarity of punk one step further, and gets away with it.

The filmmakers don’t delve too much into the backgrounds of their less-than-fab four, although the portraiture is effective and poignant: Valitalo’s disappointment in love (the girl he likes loves someone else) is heartbreaking. When Kurikka salutes the expectant fatherhood of the band’s steadfast manager, Kalle Pajamaa, and notes that people offer congratulations on the birth of a healthy child, one understands that few congratulations were offered at the birth of Kurikka or his comrades.

Tech credits are, like the band’s music, intentionally raggedy.

The Punk Syndrome


Production: A Mouka Films presentation. Produced by Sami Jahnukainen, Carsten Aanonsen, Lennart Strom, Magnus Gertten, Joakim Strand. Executive producer, Jahnukainen. Directed by Jukka Karkkainen, J-P Passi. Written by Karkkainen, Passi, Sami Jahnukainen.

Crew: Camera (color), Passi; editor, Riitta Poikselka; music, Pertti Kurikka, Kari Aalto, Sami Helle, Toni Valitalo; sound, Jorgen Bergsund, Tormod Ringnes, Antti Haikonen. Reviewed at Hot Docs Film Festival, Toronto, May 3, 2012. Running time: 85 MIN.

Cast: With: Pertti Kurikka, Kari Aalto, Sami Helle, Toni Valitalo, Kalle Pajamaa.

More Scene

  • Bebe Rexha

    Mumford and Sons, Sting, Ciara, Bebe Rexha Light Up Cannes Lions

    There was no shortage of excellent music at the 2019 edition of Cannes Lion. The international gathering of creatives drew top music brands – among them: Spotify, Live Nation, iHeartRadio, SiriusXM/Pandora, VEVO and Universal Music Group – and a slew of well-known acts to stages across the Croissette, to villas above the city and onto [...]

  • Patrick Wilson

    Patrick Wilson, Mckenna Grace on Scary Stories From 'Annabelle Comes Home' Set

    Tales of spooky occurrences on the sets of horror movies like “The Exorcist” and “Poltergeist” have circulated for years, and it looks like “The Conjuring” franchise is following in their footsteps in that regard. The cast of “Annabelle Comes Home” shared their unnerving stories from set at the film’s premiere on Thursday night at the Regency [...]

  • Donald Trump Chucky Childs Play

    'Child's Play' Stars on New Chucky's 'Creepy' Resemblance to Donald Trump

    At Wednesday night’s world premiere of the “Child’s Play” remake, it was obvious that evil doll Chucky — the star of seven films over three decades — had a little work done. And now he bears a striking resemblance to Donald Trump. “Oh, you caught that?” Aubrey Plaza asked Variety on the black carpet outside [...]

  • Cara Delevingne attends The Trevor Project's

    Cara Delevingne Recalls Producers Saying That Being Queer Will Hurt Her Career

    Hollywood may be celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month with displays of the rainbow flag and lots of talk about supporting diversity and inclusion, but Cara Delevingne says there’s still work to be done. “Behind closed doors, we are still being told, as I have, by powerful Hollywood producers that we can’t make it if we’re queer,” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content