In North America, disabled people of all kinds are marginalized. We dart our eyes away and try not to stare as we see the handicapped on busses, in shopping malls or at restaurants. We don’t welcome them into our “normal” world because they make us feel uncomfortable, and as a result we feel like it’s okay to treat them as less than human.
So when films come along that openly discuss the lives of those who a simply a little different, I get very excited. When the people in that film also happen to be part of a Finnish punk band called Pertti Kurikan’s Name Day (Pertti Kurikan NimipÃ¤ivÃ¤t), I get irrationally excited.
And The Punk Syndrome is worthy of irrational excitement. The film gives us a peek into the lives of four men with developmental disabilities who also happen to be in a punk band. They are Pertti, the band’s guitarist; Kari, the band’s singer; Sami, the band’s bassist; and Toni, the band’s drummer. And they are wonderful, complex people with a deep desire to be taken seriously and treated like they matter.
Most movies about people with developmental disabilities are filled with implied exclamations of “Look what they can do! Isn’t that good? They’re almost normal!” (Sometimes these exclamations are actual, which is unbearably worse.) This film is the exact opposite of that. The members of Pertti Kurikan’s Name Day are not treated as either problems or children, which ““ like all of us ““ they sometimes are. Instead they are treated with dignity and love, which includes the freedom to create the music of their choosing ““ music that rails against their group home, their band mates, their treatment by the general public, the government and uncomfortable pedicures. (Yes, it’s a broad spectrum, but what can I say? Artists are complex people.)
This film will remind you to celebrate the humanity in our sameness, not in our differences. These four men are barely different than you or I. What The Punk Syndrome highlights is that makers of punk music will pick fights, throw tantrums, soil their pants and be emotional messes regardless of medical condition or geographic location.
Despite their occasional outbursts, which stem more for their artistic nature than anything else, these men are a joy to watch. They will remind you that words like “˜equality’ and “˜dignity’ don’t just make nice credos, they’re realities we need to live every day. This is one of the best and most uplifting films I have seen in years, and I can’t recommend it strongly enough to anyone who is, well, human.
To find out more about the film and the band, visit their website where you can listen to some of their music and see the trailer for the film.
The Punk Syndrome screens on Monday, April 30, 2012 at 1:15 pm and Friday, May 4, 2012 at 1:30 pm as part of the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival. Check the festival website for details and tickets.
“The film tells about Pertti Kurikan NimipÃ¤ivÃ¤t so it’s about one retard who sings punk and three retards who play punk. You should watch it and think about whether you should hate disabled people or love and respect them.” ““ Kari Aalto, singer Pertti Kurikan NimipÃ¤ivÃ¤t