Midnight Sun Film Festival Filled Cinemas and Tents with Film Lovers

Midnight Sun Film Festival, which culminated on Sunday, achieved its second-highest attendance ever, following last year’s audience record.

The 39th Midnight Sun Film Festival concluded late Sunday evening, June 16. The five-day festival attracted a total of 33,000 attendees to its films and events. This attendance is the second largest in the festival’s history, following last year’s record. Fifty-nine screenings in total were sold out.

“For nearly forty years, the Midnight Sun Film Festival has offered the opportunity to experience a diverse range of cinematic art as an international top-level event,” commented Timo Malmi, the Artistic Director of the festival. “Its continuously growing and significant popularity is the best counterargument to the indifference towards culture and education that has infiltrated even the highest decision-making bodies, currently stifling the intellectual atmosphere of Finnish society.”

During the festival days, the Sodankylä audience had the opportunity to meet many renowned international directors, both at screenings and in the festival’s legendary morning discussions. Six films from the career of French master Leos Carax were featured in the programme. Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón met the audience in the screenings of his Oscar-winning works. Italian Michelangelo Frammartino and Norwegian director and writer Dag Johan Haugerud presented retrospectives of all their feature-length works to the festival audience. The films of Turkish Aslı Özge and Kazakh Adilkhan Yerzhanov became audience favourites, drawing full houses. Italian director Alice Rohrwacher, returning to Sodankylä after a ten-year break, showcased both her latest works and her own favourite film.

Numerous Finnish filmmakers also visited screenings on every festival day. Directors Virpi Suutari and Katja Gauriloff, as well as actors Elina Knihtilä and Oona Airola, among others, presented their latest works to the festival audience. MSFF founder Mika Kaurismäki’s classic The Worthless was shown in a packed Big Tent, presented by the director with actor Pirkko Hämäläinen. The festival’s frequent master class guest Mika Taanila’s new film Failed Emptiness had its Finnish premiere in Sodankylä. The festival also saw the premiere of Tero Hiltunen and Sampsa Huttunen’s documentary Anssi Mänttäri – Suomielokuvan kummisetä. Of festival founder Mänttäri’s own works, the festival programme included The Mercenary Soldier, featuring Martti Suosalo, who won his first Jussi Award for the film and attended the screening. Veteran director Markku Lehmuskallio presented his 1988 work Inuksuk as part of the Cinema on Ice selection at the festival.

MSFF’s traditional and beloved silent film concerts and karaoke screenings filled the Big Tent with music and film lovers. Legendary silent film accompanist Neil Brand created music for hilarious short films in Thursday’s Silent Comedy Greats screening and for F.W. Murnau’s City Girl together with The Dodge Brothers on Friday. Members of the band Cleaning Women, CW03 and CW04, created music for Charles Vanel’s Dans la nuit on Saturday evening. Olavi Uusivirta and Oona Airola led the audience in roaring sing-alongs during the raucous karaoke screenings of Stop Making Sense and In Bed with Madonna.

The festival concluded on Sunday with re-run screenings voted by the audience, featuring Virpi Suutari’s acclaimed activist documentary Once Upon a Time in a Forest and Mia Halme’s short film Fabulous Cow Ladies, which had its premiere at the festival with the director present. The encore screenings also included the delightful surf film Gidget Goes Hawaiian (directed by Paul Wendkos), part of Olaf Möller’s master class selection of beach films, and Anaïs Tellenne’s debut film The Dreamer, which blends fairy tales with realism.

The next Midnight Sun Film Festival will be held in June 2025, when the festival will celebrate its 40th anniversary.

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

Image: Juho Liukkonen