(A Letter to Vladimir Putin)

(Riverbulls — kirje Vladimir Putinille)

Documentary film

Script & direction: TEEMU MÄKI

Duration: 58 minutes

 Format: 4K video, stereo sound

 Production: Janiv Oskar / Isle Art Industries, 2023

Watch the TEASER.



RIVERBULLS (A Letter to Vladimir Putin) is a documentary film about a Finnish male synchronized skating team... and a Russian President.

It's extremely rare for men to have synchronized skating as their hobby. However, I found a group of ordinary men, Team RiverBulls, are doing just that, in Seinäjoki, Ostrobothnia, rural Finland. I'm originally from there myself. It used to be very conservative place: the male sports were wrestling, javelin throw, Finnish Baseball and shooting — with or without skis. I'm happy that things have changed and got interested to make a documentary film about the RiverBulls.

The film is also a reflection of what it means to be a man and where a male person's idea of manhood may take him. In the case of Vladimir Putin, the current president of Russia, it has driven him to become a tyrant obsessed with looking like an invincible warrior king — in sports, in politics and in battlefields.

Since one of the sports Putin does is ice-hockey, there is a threadbare connection between him and the RiverBulls: they all love skating. That's why I wrote him an open letter, which is heard in the film. I tell him about the RiverBulls and also about my own journey with various sports and with manliness. And I tell him that it would be good for him and the world if he too tried new ways of how to be a man.

Music is an important part of this film. With the RiverBulls I got the change to pick the music for their this year's synchronized skating routine. I chose Toivo Kuula's arrangements of Ostrobothnian folk songs. In the film you'll also hear two compositions by contemporary Ukrainian composers: Valentin Silvestrov, and Hanna Havrylets. All the compositions are heard in their entirety.

Helsinki, January 2023

Teemu Mäki


TEEMU MÄKI (www.teemumaki.com) is a writer, visual artist, researcher and director of theatre, opera and film. He was born in 1967 and is based in Helsinki, Finland. He started out as a painter and photographic artist, but has for a long time been equally at home in literature, performing arts and film. He got his doctorate in Fine Arts in 2005. He has been a freelancing artist since 1990, except for five years (2008–2013) when he was the Professor of Visual Arts in Aalto University, Finland. His previous film include REFUGEE CONVERSATIONS (2020), a documentary about Iraqi refugees and xenophobia in Finland, and HOW MANY GENDERS ARE THERE? (2018), a documentary about multiplicity of gender.

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