The 30th Midnight Sun Film Festival Breaks Records

The 30th edition of the Midnight Sun Film Festival (June 10-14 2015) broke several audience records of the traditional festival. According to Sunday morning’s estimate, there were more than 30 000 visitors who bought tickets to festival screening, held in four venues around the clock. The visitor numbers were up approximately 15 per cent from last year.

This year there were filmmakers from more than ten countries coming to show their films to the cultivated audiences beyond the Arctic Circle. Mike Leigh from the UK was this year’s main guest, joined by Christian Petzold (Germany), Whit Stillman (USA), Nils Malmros (Denmark), Malgorzata Szumowska (Poland), Miguel Gomes (Portugal) and Auberi Edler (France), among others.

The festival was launched with a head start on Wednesday morning at Cinema Lapinsuu with a matinee dedicated to the life and deeds of Peter von Bagh. The matinee screened short films and featured expert guests from Jouko Aaltonen to Bernard Eisenschitz. The presence of the late von Bagh was vividly present at the festival, in the form of his own films as well as screenings of his personal favourites. Especially The Count, von Bagh’s singular feature-length fiction film, made the audience go wild.

Von Bagh’s role as a moderator of the festival’s morning discussions was inherited by Timo Malmi, Olaf Möller, Liselott Forsman, Otto Kylmälä, Neil McGlone and Petteri Kalliomäki, who each got the opportunity to invite a foreign festival guest to the School stage for a chat. The YLE Teema channel transmitted the festival atmosphere to Finnish homes by live-broadcasting Mike Leigh’s Saturday morning discussion and the discussion of the Finnish festival guests. The recordings are now available at the YLE Areena streaming service.

An extensive recap of the year’s Finnish films is a traditional part of the festival selection. This year actress Minna Haapkylä was present to introduce the screening of Jörn Donner’sArmi Alive!, while Armi Toivanen spoke with the audience in connection to Antti Heikki Pesonen’s Headfirst. The Finnish director guests Petri Kotwica (Absolution) Anssi Mänttäri (Black Dog on My Shoulder) and Ville Suhonen (Seamstress) received a warm welcome.

By Sunday morning, there had been 28 sold-out screenings at the festival. Cinema Lapinsuu, the “festival palace”, attracted a full house on many consecutive days, while every single screening of Malgorzata Szumowska’s films was sold out. The bigger capacity of the new Big Tent was also evident at the box office.

Rare 70mm versions of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Akira Kurosawa’sDersu Uzala hypnotized spectators at the Big Tent. The ecstasy of karaoke was experienced three times at this year’s festival, with Thursday’s Suomi-Filmi-Sing-Along and Friday’s At the Rovaniemi Fair preparing the audience for Saturday, when Sam Huber, wearing a baroque shirt, danced on top of a grand piano to the melodies of Prince’sPurple Rain. Silent films led by conductor and master pianist Antonio Coppola, Jacques Feyder’sThe New Gentlemen (accompanied by Avanti! orchestra) and Frank Borzage’sLucky Star,were also received with enthusiasm, as was expected.