The documentary about Jope Ruonansuu is a heartbreaking glimpse into the mind of a violated child

The Jope Ite documentary provides an unprecedented glimpse into Jope Ruonansuu’s life, says Iltalehti editor Sara Valavaara.

Jope Ruonansuu experienced a painful childhood, being bullied at school. SF STUDIOS

Coming to cinemas in February Jope Ite -documentary is a heartbreaking story about the life of the beloved Finnish entertainer Jorma “Jope” Ruonansuu. The boy who was bullied at school grew into a comedian loved by the whole nation, with the heart of an entertainer beating in his chest. But also the aching desire to be an artist and a person to be taken seriously.

The film presents the shy, broken and fearful side of Ruonansuu, known as an impersonator, comedian and couplet singer, who was ashamed of his body and drowned his hardest feelings in alcohol. The documentary gives the believable impression of peering into the late comedian’s head in an honest and new way.

The documentary, built on the basis of interviews with Ruonansuu’s close friends and colleagues, also moves forward with the help of television interviews and sketches given by the man himself.

After the emotional start, the documentary seemed to drag on for a while. However, after getting up to speed again, it successfully held its grip until the end with its plot and visual narration. The archival material had clearly been handled with care and had been used judiciously, except for a few loose gimmicks.

The biggest hook in the story, however, was a feeling that hit and sank: the round little boy who was discriminated against in the school yard seemed to carry sadness and pain under his comedian’s cape until the end of his life.

Ruonansuu did his first gigs as a comedian when he was only 16 years old. SF Studios

Ruonansuu is known to have suffered from being overweight throughout his life, so watching the archive clips presented in the documentary felt heavy in 2023 and at a time of physical rest: the presenters joked about the man’s “big stomach” while Ruonansuu himself got on stage to joke at his weakest point.

Joking about obesity seemed like a defense mechanism that allowed the comedian to take the criticism into his own hands. When the performer persona can be insulted about pounds, the civilian persona is safe.

The documentary did not deal with the part of Ruonansuu’s production that would be classified as socially questionable or inappropriate today. Even though these sketches were not given space in the documentary, it helped to understand the decision to leave them out: the artist leaning on the politics of the day and the discussion culture of society was talking about what was being talked about in that world.

The artist, who suffered from excess weight, got a kick from the world himself, when joking about a person’s size was still generally acceptable on some level.

Jope Ruonansuu visited the Independence Day reception 2016 with his wife. SF STUDIOS

Ruonansuu’s sketches and music have always appeared to me as embarrassing, but beloved camp humor. The ridiculous 90s played in the children’s room’s stereo at the turn of the millennium, although the staleness of the lyrics has been laughed at many times after becoming an adult.

I once tried to listen to the whole on the way from Kuusamo to Helsinki The ridiculous 90s-album’s 60 tracks again, but the listening experience is boring at the 16th point. Helplessly outdated, sounding like a bad improvisation, the ensemble felt like a punishment after the week spent in Ruka.

Despite my mischievous attitude, the tears that rolled down my cheeks at the end of it speak for a good documentary. And there’s no denying Jope’s talent, after all, the man was a phenomenal imitator and a peephole into the humor of the deep ranks of the people.

It was touching to see the pride, love, sadness and longing of the entire Ruonansuu family for their brother, husband and father who had passed away.

However, the film gave the most important lesson in how much pain and a distorted self-image bullying at school can leave on a person. No matter how you run away.

Jope Ite documentary in cinemas on February 10. The documentary was directed by Marko Talli, who also wrote the screenplay together with Mika Räinä and Nikke Bagge.

Jope Ruonansuu passed away in July 2020 at only 56 years old.