At the Midnight Sun Film Festival, Martin Scorsese Guides Audiences into the Depths of Film History in a New Documentary

The festival’s special programme features documentaries about legends of the film industry alongside their most beloved works. Among the luminaries gracing the screen are Martin Scorsese and Agnès Varda.

Once again, Sodankylä audiences will have the opportunity to explore the great names of film history, as fresh biographical documentaries accompany the classic works of their subjects in the festival programme. David Hinton’s brand new Made in England: The Films of Powell and Pressburger (2024) is an endearing and entertaining chronicle of the most important filmmaker duo of the “seventh art,” in which we are guided through the twists and turns of their careers by their great admirer, director Martin Scorsese—this time in front of the camera. Alongside this documentary, the festival will screen the dark and emotional classic Black Narcissus (1947) directed by Pressburger and Powell, remembered from his legendary visit to Sodankylä in 1987.

Agnès Varda captivated the festival in 1991—finally, a documentary worthy of the achievements of the “mother figure” of the French New Wave has been made by Pierre-Henri Gibert, who specialises in director portraits. From the pioneering feminist filmmaker’s oeuvre, the festival will present the ahead-of-its-time rarity One Sings, the Other Doesn’t (1976), a musical that explores subjects like illegal abortions as it depicts the friendship between two young women.

Among Miloš Forman’s most insightful comedies, Man on the Moon (1999) is an unconventional biography of entertainer Andy Kaufman that features Jim Carrey’s most successful comedic performance to date. But what kind of artist was the moonstruck comedian Kaufman really? Accompanying Forman’s film is Alex Braverman’s hilarious Thank You Very Much (2023), awarded as the best documentary at the Venice Film Festival, delving into this puzzle.

Frank Capra: Mr. America (2023) is a portrait by British filmmaker Matthew Wells of the man behind the beloved Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life, a quintessentially American filmmaker known for his popular and often socially conscious comedies. From Capra, who emigrated from Italy as a child, the festival will screen Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), starring James Stewart, in which a sincere small-town scoutmaster becomes a senator and rises to challenge the political corruption in Washington.

Henry Fonda for President (2024) fits into the U.S. election year like a hairpiece on Trump’s head: the documentary thoroughly examines the life and films of the beloved actor. Directed by Alexander Horwath, former director of the Viennale Film Festival and the Austrian Film Museum, the film intriguingly intertwines Fonda’s biography with American political history. As presidential proof of Fonda’s “full-body acting,” the festival will screen Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), a portrait of young Abraham Lincoln that began Fonda and John Ford’s unparalleled collaboration as perhaps the director’s most fascinating film.

Last year’s masterclass guest in Sodankylä, festival director Ehsan Khoshbakht’s deeply personal and emotional Celluloid Underground (2023) depicts his own cinephilia in Iran and in exile in London, along with the story of film collector Ahmad Jorghanian, whose film obsession, dangerous in the officials’ eyes, led him to an Iranian prison and torture. Brazil’s current top director Kleber Mendonça Filho reminisces in his acclaimed documentary Pictures of Ghosts (2023) about growing up as a filmmaker in his hometown Recife. The country’s latest Oscar submission is above all a nostalgic documentary about the transformation of cinemas from palaces of experiences to sterile consumption halls, dictated by market economy and the changing urban architecture.

Shot in Italy, Jan Ijäs’ new half-hour documentary Two Wars (2024) cleverly sheds light on the same Battle of San Pietro, which is also depicted in John Huston’s eponymous documentary from 1945, also to be shown in Sodankylä. Ijäs intriguingly reveals how Huston actually executed his celebrated work—and also gives a short lesson on the use of cinematic techniques. A fascinating pair of works will also be seen from Georgian director Lana Gogoberidze, whose recent documentary about her own mother, Georgia’s first female director, Mother and Daughter, or the Night Is Never Complete (2023) is paired with Gogoberidze’s 1978 feminist Soviet cinema classic Some Interviews on Personal Matters.

The festival’s theme of “The Seven or So Wonders of the Seventh Art” is completed by new Finnish documentaries, which will be revealed along with the Finnish programme in the coming weeks. The festival’s established collaborative series delving into film history with the National Audiovisual Institute and Yle will also continue! New episodes of the “Best of Sodankylä” series will be aired on Yle Teema and available on Areena, with details on their content coming soon. Kino Regina’s “Best of Sodankylä” series will be released alongside the summer programme of the cinema in May.

The festival’s serial card sales begin on Monday, May 27, and the festival schedule will be released on Tuesday, May 28. Online ticket sales start on Thursday, May 30. The festival takes place in Sodankylä on June 12-16.

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