The three-year-long wait is finally over as the Midnight Sun Film Festival (15.–19.6.) goes live again under Lapland skies. In addition to the wide-ranging selection of films, the festival presents its audience with an amazing guest list of acclaimed and awarded directors. In Sodankylä among others there will be the actor-director and two-time Cannes winner Mathieu Amalric from France, the director and acclaimed scriptwriter Nicholas Meyer from the USA, Berlinale winner Ildikó Enyedi from Hungary, Lenny Abrahamson from Ireland, and the Brazilian-Algerian Karim Aïnouz. Presenting the younger generation of filmmakers this year there is e.g. Jonas Selberg Augustsén from Sweden whose new feature The Longest Day (starring Ville Virtanen who will also be in Sodankylä) will have its Finnish premiere at the festival – as will many other films. In the Carte Blanche series composer Kaija Saariaho, one of the top names of the music world, will present her favourite films.
The list of Finnish guests includes directors Hanna Bergholm (Hatching), Khadar Ayderus Ahmed (The Gravedigger’s Wife) and Einari Paakkanen (Karaoke Paradise) as well as the comet-like actress Seidi Haarla (Compartment No. 6). From one of the festival’s hosts, Mika Kaurismäki, we’ll see the new film Gracious Night. We’ll also see his film L.A. Without A Map (1998), which is based on the book by British scriptwriter wizard Richard Rayner who will also be joining the festival.
French cinema’s no. 1 cult actor today, Mathieu Amalric (born 1965), is currently shooting with the Italian maestro Nanni Moretti and will come to Sodankylä to take a break from the schedule. Amalric has been involved in nearly a hundred films, starting from his “discoverer’s”, director Arnaud Desplechin’s (in Sodankylä in 2019), work. In several Desplechin films he has been the lead but is also known for his unique roles in international successes such as München and Grand Budapest Hotel and his take on the Bond villain in Quantum of Solace. In Sodankylä, Amalric presents his most famous work as an actor, the role of a paralyzed man who communicates only through blinking, in the film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (directed by Julian Schnabel 2007), but furthermost his work as a director – which Amalric himself considers to be his main profession now. We’ll see Amalric’s Cannes Film Festival and César Awards winners: On Tour (2010), a film about a burlesque troupe, The Blue Room (2014), a film based on a crime novel by Georges Simenon, Barbara (2017), the portrait of a chanson singer starring Jeanne Balibar, and Hold Me Tight (2020), a mysterious mosaic of a mother (Vicky Krieps) walking out on her family.
The characteristic filmmaker and writer Nicholas Meyer (born 1945) is a multitalented professional and has had a long career in Hollywood lightly hopping from one genre to another but being mostly known as the master of science fiction. He had his breakthrough when the Academy nominated him for the best adapted screenplay, based on his novel, for the detective comedy The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (directed by Herbert Ross, 1976). His debut as a director, Time After Time (1979) is a time travel classic and an entertaining presentation of the encounter between H. G. Wells and Jack the Ripper. The film’s lovers Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburger were also lovers in real life. Meyer is also the person behind the most iconic and beloved film of the whole gigantic scifi saga, i.e. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) as well as the original cast’s swansong Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991). Meyer’s awarded and praised tv sensation The Day After (1983) postulates a fictional nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union and even effected top international politics. Sodankylä will also screen The Deceivers (1988), which revived the tradition of films on exotic adventures in India, as well as Elegy (directed by Isabel Coixet, 2008), one of Meyer’s script adaptations on the author Philip Roth’s works.
Ildiko Enyedi (born 1955) is a beloved and much appreciated character in the Hungarian film scene, a charming person who follows her own path and who declares pantheistic joy in films she has both directed and written. She’s brought to screen animals that ease people’s life struggles: a donkey guiding a person, a dove delivering a message, a red deer appearing in dreams. Surrealism and playful humour are elements that keep showing up in Enyed’s work. In Sodankylä we’ll see My 20th Century (1989), which brought Enyed the award for the best debut film at Cannes and is a wonderfully dream-like depiction of twin sisters. We’ll also see Simon the Magician (1999), the love story of a Hungarian “visionary” who comes to Paris to solve a murder mystery; the Berlin top prize winner On Body and Soul (2017), a love film fleeing categorizations; and Enyed’s debut as a director of an English speaking film The Story of My Wife (2021), which is based on Milan Füst’s novel on the love of a mariner.
Today’s top director in Ireland, Lenny Abrahamson (born 1966), whose works are set in small towns and backstreets and examine intimate love, yet he also really knows how to make an entertaining film Hollywood style. His tragic-comic sense of humour and sympathy towards the outcasts of society was obvious already in the Cannes winner Garage (2007) which takes us on a journey into the mindset of desolate Irish villages. The musical comedy Frank (2014), inspired by the comic persona Frank Sidebottom, is one of Abrahamson’s many depictions of outcasts. The director’s big breakthrough is the kidnapping drama Room (2015). It was nominated at the Academy awards for best direction and is based on Emma Donoghue’s novel. At the heart of the film there are the young boy’s imagination, the redeeming power of motherly love and fantastic performances. The horror drama The Little Stranger (2018) is set in the post WWII England and as a psychological ghost story is a novelty from Abrahamson yet stands in the continuum of British classics on the genre. For tv viewers the director’s sensitive storytelling is familiar from the series Normal People (2020) based on Sally Rooney’s novel.
If you have seen but one film by Karim Aïnouz (born 1966), the director who easily moves from fiction to documentary and vice versa, you’ll know that he makes films not with a camera but with his heart. He has been a central figure among filmmakers addressing topics regarding gender and sexual minorities in our time. The portrait of a transvestite Madame Satã (2002) premiered in the Un Certain Regard Section at Cannes and has since won multiple prizes around the world. In the visually luscious Futuro Beach (2014) the story of the two men and the phases of their relationship are told in a challenging and subtle way, through montage rather than scenes. The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão (2019), about two Brasilian sisters in the 1950’s, won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section in Cannes and is an exemplary film of a “tropically hot” Latin melodrama. Aïnouz’s newest film, an intimately essayistic documentary, Mariner of the Mountains (2011) is a beautiful exploration of multigenerational Algeria, the director’s father’s home country.
The writer-director Jonas Selberg Augustsén’s minimalism in both style and depiction of border district people’s mentality has been compared to Roy Andersson and Aki Kaurismäki. Selberg Augustsén is originally from the Northern countryside of Sweden and has started an exciting project of making five films in five different minority languages of his home country. Following the shortfilms in meänkieli and sami languages, he directed an absurd comic roadmovie The Garbage Helicopter (Sophelikoptern, 2015) in Romany language and then a Finnish comedy of the same genre that premieres soon in Finland but will also be screened in Sodankylä. This film called The Longest Day (Den längsta dagen, 2020) takes place on sunny Midsummer Night’s Eve. Among the top Finnish cast is Ville Virtanen.
Following author Kjell Westö and writer-director Pirjo Honkasalo, this year’s Carte Blanche series is selected and presented by another top Finnish artist in her field, Kaija Saariaho (born 1952). Contemporary composers of concert music nominated Saariaho as their best living colleague and the all-time best female composer of the world in a poll organized by the BBC a couple of years back. Just from the soundtrack point of view it will be fascinating to hear how she presents such favourites of her as Jean-Marie Straub’s and Danièle Huillet’s The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (1968) and Ingmar Bergman’s Saraband (2003) – and why she selected Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (1959) and Stephen Frears’s My Beautiful Laundrette (1985).
This year’s Midnight Sun Film Festival’s whole selection, special programme and list of guests as well as all possible additions to the programme will be announced later.