French Visionary Leos Carax and Oscar Winner Alfonso Cuarón Among Special Guests at the Midnight Sun Film Festival

The special guests at the Midnight Sun Film Festival, held from June 12-16, will be directors Leos Carax, Alfonso Cuarón, Michelangelo Frammartino, Dag Johan Haugerud, Aslı Özge, Adilkhan Yerzhanov, and Alice Rohrwacher. Additionally, numerous Finnish filmmakers will present their works to the festival audience.

Visionary and fiercely independent French director-screenwriter Leos Carax (b. 1960) will visit the Midnight Sun Film Festival in June. The festival programme will feature a comprehensive selection of Carax’s films from throughout his career. His black-and-white debut feature Boy Meets Girl (1984) is a melancholy love story starring future favorite actor Denis Lavant. Bad Blood (1986), which became Carax’s breakthrough, evolves into a brutally romantic genre collage typical of the director. Equally tender, passionate, absolute, and unconventional is The Lovers on the Bridge (1991), also starring Lavant and Juliette Binoche, which unfolds into a cruel fairy tale for adults. After a long break from feature films, Carax returned with the hallucinatory Holy Motors (2012), a masterpiece by any measure. Carax’s first English-language film, the flamboyant Annette (2021), blends musical with rock opera and was made in collaboration with the cult band Sparks. His latest work, the self-portrait It’s Not Me (2024), premiered last weekend to high acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival and will also be screened in Sodankylä.

Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón (b. 1961), twice awarded the Oscar for Best Director, will also be a guest at the festival. Having first made films in Hollywood in the 90s, Cuarón has seamlessly moved between Mexico, the United States, and his current home in Britain, as well as between large-budget genre films and more personal arthouse works. The festival programme will feature the raucous road movie Y tu mamá también (2001), which exploded the popularity of Mexican cinema. Children of Men (2006) is a dystopian thriller set in a future where humanity has lost fertility, while Gravity (2013) starts as a routine space mission but soon turns into a gripping survival adventure. Cuarón’s latest directorial work, his Golden Lion-winning passion project Roma (2018), saw the director working for the first time also as a cinematographer, which also brought him an Oscar statue.

Milanese director Michelangelo Frammartino (b. 1968) is one of the most vital innovators of Italian cinema. Frammartino’s sparse but masterful output, which touches on art installations and documentary filmmaking, is a powerful prism of humanity, set against the rugged landscapes and forgotten villages of southern Italy. Frammartino’s debut film The Gift (2003) tells intersecting stories of an old man and a young woman in a remote Calabrian village. His international breakthrough The Four Times (2010), regarded as one of contemporary cinema’s greatest masterpieces, poetically and cinematically depicts the soul’s journey from one body and form to another. After a decade-long break, Frammartino’s fans were again impressed by his follow-up, 1960s-set The Hole (2021), in which a team of researchers descends into one of the world’s deepest caves while the tallest building in Europe is being constructed in northern Italy.

Dag Johan Haugerud (b. 1964), who has quickly risen to the ranks of Norway’s top directors, is known for his award-winning adult relationship dramas. In Sodankylä, Haugerud’s tragicomical debut feature about inhibitions, I Belong (2012), will be screened. Beware of Children (2019), awarded multiple times as the best Nordic film of the year, explores the complex and often contradictory perspectives surrounding the suspicious death of a 13-year-old boy. Haugerud’s latest work, Sex (2024), which was awarded at Berlinale, starts an intriguing trilogy with a slightly comedic portrayal of gender identity and sexuality under the pressures of contemporary society.

Director and screenwriter Aslı Özge (b. 1975), who was born in Istanbul and later moved to Berlin, addresses societal mechanisms in both her old and new homelands in her films. Özge has quickly become a significant new voice in German cinema, while also continuing to keenly observe her native country. Men on the Bridge (2009), screened at dozens of film festivals, offers sharp insights into Turkish society through the stories of three men whose paths cross on the Bosphorus Bridge. After living in Germany for 15 years, Özge felt ready to depict the local society with her dark psychological thriller All of a Sudden (2016), winning both audiences and critics over. The Dardenne brothers-produced Black Box (2023) depicts the power struggles among residents trapped in a Berlin apartment building as victims of the modern real estate business. Özge’s latest film, Faruk, which combines documentary and fictional elements, won the top prize in Berlinale’s Panorama section this year and follows the story of Özge’s elderly father living in Istanbul and the inevitable changes in the city due to gentrification.

Distinctive Kazakh director Adilkhan Yerzhanov (b. 1982), a familiar name in Sodankylä in recent years, will also visit the festival. Yerzhanov’s third feature film, The Owners (2013), is a wild tragicomedy influenced by both Aki Kaurismäki and Vincent van Gogh. The Gentle Indifference of the World (2018) is a minimalist yet colourful and occasionally absurd melodrama. The exceptional crime film A Dark, Dark Man (2019) combines Raymond Chandleresque detective story with French neo-noir police thriller elements. His latest film, Steppenwolf (2024), inspired by Herman Hesse’s novel, is a stylistic nod to Westerns and 1970s revenge stories set in the desolate steppes of modern Kazakhstan.

Alice Rohrwacher (b. 1981), who already visited Sodankylä in 2014, returns to the festival this year. Since her last visit, Rohrwacher has become an Oscar nominee and cemented her place in the programmes of the world’s top festivals. At Sodankylä, Rohrwacher’s latest film, La Chimera (2023), which arrived in Finnish cinemas this spring, will be screened. It is a playful story about grave robbers in 1980s Tuscany, true to Rohrwacher’s style. Additionally, the festival will show the charming short film Le Pupille (2022), Oscar-nominated and produced by Alfonso Cuarón. The film features music by the Finnish band Cleaning Women, whom Rohrwacher met during her first visit to Sodankylä. Rohrwacher will also present two of her favorite films to the festival audience.

As usual, Sodankylä will also feature numerous Finnish filmmakers. Virpi Suutari will present her acclaimed new activist documentary Once Upon a Time in a Forest. Director Tia Kouvo and actress Elina Knihtilä of the film Family Time will present their Christmas tragicomedy at the festival. Katja Gauriloff will introduce the audience to the first-ever Skolt Sámi language film Je’vida. Actor Oona Airola will represent her film The Missile (dir. Miia Tervo), inspired by strange true events and set in Inari. Airola also stars in Selma Vilhunen’s sensitive and polyamory-themed Four Little Adults, also in the festival programme. Actor Jari Virman will attend the screening of Teemu Nikki’s dark comedy Death Is a Problem for the Living. At the screening of Mika Kaurismäki’s existential road movie classic The Worthless (1982), lead actress Pirkko Hämäläinen will be present. The festival screening celebrates the release of a commemorative book on The Worthless, written by Mikko Mattila and Raija Talvio.

The festival will host the Finnish premiere of Mika Taanila’s new work Failed Emptiness, which premiered in Rotterdam, with the director in attendance. Ville Suhonen will present his new documentary Children of War and Peace, composed of archival material. Markku Lehmuskallio, who has had a 50-year career in film, will also visit Sodankylä with his 1988 film Inuksuk. The festival will also feature Tero Hiltunen and Sampsa Huttunen’s new documentary about one of the festival’s founders, Anssi Mänttäri – Suomielokuvan kummisetä, with filmmakers present at the screening. Additionally, Mänttäri’s 1998 bar-set tale Mercenary Soldier, which won Martti Suosalo his first Best Supporting Actor Jussi Award, will be shown with Mänttäri and Suosalo in attendance. Saara Cantell will visit the festival with her new documentary The Northern Star, about Finnish acting legend Anneli Sauli. From Sauli’s multifaceted career, the festival will screen Risto Jarva’s strikingly modern urban portrait Game of Luck (1965). This year’s finest Finnish short films will be presented in a screening that includes the premiere of Mia Halme’s film Fabulous Cow Ladies, about three cows and their caretakers, with the director in attendance. The screening will also feature the Jussi-winning short documentary How to Please, whose director Elina Talvensaari will be present.

The festival will take place in Sodankylä from June 12-16. Serial card sales begin next Monday, May 27, when we will reveal the final films in the programme. The festival schedule will be released on Tuesday, May 28, and online ticket sales start on Thursday, May 30.

Midnight Sun Film Festival would like to thank our partners:

Ammattiliitto Pro ry, Finland Festivals ry, EU/Creative Media, Laitilan Wirvoitusjuomatehdas, Niilo Helander Foundation, The Ministry of Education and Culture (OKM), The National Audiovisual Institute (KAVI), Finnish Film Foundation (SES), The Sodankylä Municipality, Taike, YLE Teema, The French Institute in Finland, Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Helsinki, Embassy of Mexico