Pop singer Kikka, a.k.a. Kirsi Hannele Viilonen, who passed away in 2005 at just 41 years old, will finally get her due in the upcoming biopic being produced by Helsinki’s Komeetta. Founded by producers Daniel Kuitunen and Kaisla Viitala, the production company’s slate already includes Zaida Bergroth’s “Maria’s Paradise,” shown in Toronto in 2019, and J-P Valkeapää’s comedy “Hit Big,” currently in development.
The Finnish answer to the likes of Samantha Fox or Sabrina, as she was often referred to during the first years of her tumultuous career, quickly grabbed the public’s attention with her playful songs and a highly sexualized image. Although still best known in her native country, there are universal themes to her story, Viitala tells Variety.
“‘Kikka!’ is more than a biopic – it’s a story about an aging sex symbol, about friendship and loneliness. I think these are all universal topics,” she adds.
Starring Sara Melleri and directed by actor-turned-director Anna Paavilainen – acclaimed for her Laura Birn-starring short “Two Bodies on a Beach” – the film will be distributed locally by Nordisk Film. Aiming for a February 2022 premiere, it will span decades, set in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, which heavily influenced its look.
“We got really inspired by these periods and just went for color and energy,” says Viitala, referring to the film’s bright aesthetic. “That’s something that Kikka also represented to us as a person and artist.”
While Finland has already enjoyed a slew of music biopics in recent years, they focused mostly on male performers, from Olavi Virta, known as “the king of Finnish tango” to Juice Leskinen.
“This is directly related to who is telling these stories. In the past, the vast majority of film screenwriters and directors have been men, so naturally they wanted to tell stories about men,” says Viitala.
“Now that, fortunately, we are finally in a situation where women get to tell stories as well, the protagonists and perspectives of these stories also change,” she adds, underlining that the decision to make a movie about Kikka came about mostly because she was “an exceptional person.”
Known for her joyful, suggestive songs like “I Want to Entertain” (“Mä haluun viihdyttää”) or “Shuttle to Venus” (“Sukkula Venukseen”), Kikka was “ahead of her time,” argues the producer, expanding what it meant to be a female artist in Finland at that time.
“She played with sexuality, which was not something people were used to back then. She made female sexuality visible,” she says. “[Her story] is a good example of how much progress has been made when it comes to equality and general treatment of women. How they have been trying to make a space for themselves and how much debate had to happen for women to be allowed to be themselves, also in power-holding positions.”
With a story focusing mainly on Kikka’s artistry and, as a result, featuring a lot of her music, the film will also mention her treatment by the media. Underrated as a performer, during an infamous 1990 TV interview with journalist Tapani Ripatti she was described as “a woman with everything below her shoulders.”
“This scene is a very good example of how they perceived this kind of sexuality – as a threat that must be defeated,” says Viitala, mentioning that as time went by, the singer “wasn’t given a chance to change.”
“In Kikka’s story, an ‘aging woman’ is something the audience doesn’t want to see or hear. Kikka was not ‘made’ into a sex symbol, however; she was that from the very beginning and she also knew her own charm. It came naturally. Still, no human being is just one thing and neither was Kikka. We show other aspects of her as well,” she says, also explaining the film’s title.
“For us, the exclamation mark refers to the audience, shouting to see Kikka on stage. In our film, that’s exactly what she does: she gets on that stage. It’s a story about a woman who, more than anything else, just wanted to perform.”