The Festival’s 2023 Guests Include Sergei Loznitsa, Arturo Ripstein, Mary Sweeney, and Emmanuel Mouret

Held from June 14 to 18, The Midnight Sun Film Festival will welcome as this year’s international filmmaker guests Ukrainian Sergei Loznitsa, one of the top documentarists in the world today, legendary Mexican director Arturo Ripstein and screenwriter Paz Alicia Garciadiego, David Lynch’s frequent collaborator, editor, screenwriter, and producer Mary Sweeney from the United States, one of the most interesting names in contemporary French film Emmanuel Mouret, Icelandic photographer and filmmaker Sigurþór ”Spessi” Hallbjörnsson, and Austrian debut director David Wagner. Finnish debut directors Hanna Västinsalo ja Juha Suonpää and Aki Kaurismäki’s Fallen Leaves stars Alma Pöysti and Jussi Vatanen will be present at their films’ Finnish premieres in Sodankylä.

One of the most notable documentarists of the 21st century, Sergei Loznitsa (b. 1964) will attend the Midnight Sun Film Festival to present awarded fictional and documentary features from his prolific career, from the early years all the way to the newest. Born in Belarus, raised in Ukraine, completed his film studies in Russia and currently resides in Lithuania, Loznitsa’s films reflect the director’s deep familiarity with the Soviet Union and its different states, both then and now. Through archive material, Loznitsa’s acclaimed historical documentaries let the audience soak in the atmosphere of the time depicted and give ample room to draw one’s own conclusions. As a fiction director, he is at least equally as skilled, as his past works to be presented at the Festival prove.

Loznitsa’s fictional debut My Joy (2010) is a road movie gradually that gradually picks up horror elements, as well as a journey into Russia’s brutal Soviet past pieced together from real stories. In the Fog’s (2012) depiction of 1942 Belarus echoes 1960s Soviet cinema. A Gentle Creature (2017) paints a scalding portrait of the spiritual and material decay left behind by the Soviet Union. Of Loznitsa’s two newest documentaries, The Kiev Trial (2022) gives us front row seats at the ”Kiev Nuremberg,” a war crimes trial held in the bombed-out capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in January 1946. The Natural History of Destruction (2022) is a bone-chilling compilation film of the bombings of German cities at the end of the Second World War.

Mexican cinema’s grandmaster and pathbreaker Arturo Ripstein’s (b. 1943) work has rarely been screened in Finland, but this wrong will be righted at the upcoming Midnight Sun Film Festival. Ripstein is an inventor of new cinematic forms and a reviser of old genres, stories, and tropes, whose work is an invitation to a grand journey. The festival offers a selection of films form Ripstein’s seven decades-spanning career, which offer a glimpse into the director’s massive œuvre. It is filled with masterful melodramas, morbidity and anguish, absurd humor and grotesque drama, and agonizing twists of fate. Ripstein’s long-time cinematic partner Paz Alicia Garciadiego (b. 1949), the screenwriter of many of his key works, will also attend the festival.

Ripstein’s third feature film his breakthrough The Castle of Purity (1972) tells the true story of a man who keeps his whole family prisoner to protect them from a world he deems simply evil. Reminiscent of Luis Buñuel’s work, the  charming The Black Widow (1977) is a provocation on the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie. The Place without Limits (1978) depicts life in a worn-out brothel while looking into themes of gender roles, misogyny, and capitalism through a magical realist lens. Cockfights offer a road from rags to riches in the Juan Rulfo adaptation The Realm of Fortune (1986). In Ripstein’s newest, Garciadiego-penned film Devil Between the Legs (2019) a nameless old man and his wife have spent so much time together in their age-worn apartment, that loathing and love have become perversely inseparable.

American Mary Sweeney’s (b. 1953) versatile career in film has spanned over forty years. During her career, she has worked as a director, editor, screenwriter, and producer. Her filmography is characterised by collaboration with film director David Lynch, whose surreal and mystical films, edited and produced by Sweeney, have become modern classics. Alongside filmmaking, Sweeney works as Professor at the University of Southern California.

Sweeney’s humane and compassionate directorial debut Baraboo (2009) will be screened in Sodankylä. In it, the lives of six people in different situations are intertwined in the dingy motel district of a small town. At the Festival, you also get to enjoy the fruits of Sweeney and Lynch’s collaboration, like the cinematic prequel of the legendary TV show Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), the murder mystery Lost Highway (1997), subconsciously inspired by the O. J. Simpson trial, as well as the Sweeney-penned, sweet The Straight Story (1999), based on true events. Mulholland Dr. (2001), the phoenix that rose from the ashes of an abandoned TV pilot, earned Sweeney the 2002 BAFTA Award for best editing. Sweeney’s first work as a producer, Michael Almereyda’s Nadja (1994) is a postmodern vampire film, in which Bram Stoker’s characters are thrown into the urban world of the 1990s.

One of the most interesting names in contemporary French cinema, Emmanuel Mouret (b. 1970) has made subtle relationship dramas since the 1990s, in which speaking becomes visual music and spatial poetry. Mouret’s classical films don’t pander to any zeitgeist. While he long stayed under the radar, the director has in recent years risen to wider acclaim and earned César nominations with his work.

Mouret’s second feature film Venus and Fleur (2004) is a nostalgic summertime comedy of mistakes, reminiscent of Éric Rohmer’s work. The light but profound The Art of Love (2011) is a suprising tale of love divided into ten chapters. With the Cécile de France-starring compact comedy of manners Lady J (2018), Mouret created his own version of Denis Diderot’s cautionary tale of love. Set in the French countryside, Love Affair(s) (2020) leads the viewer into a whole cosmos of relationships. In Mouret’s newest film Diary of a Fleeting Affair (2022) two people, played by the amazing Sandrine Kiberlain and Vincent Macaigne, meet in a bar and decide to embark on a relationship with a rather unusual premise regarding sex, courtship, and a future together. But what happens to passion, or the other parties in the scenario?

A renowned photographer in his native Iceland, Sigurþór ”Spessi” Hallbjörnsson (b. 1956) arrives to the festival to present the world premiere of his directorial effort, the music documentary Megas (2023). It follows one of Iceland’s top musicians, singer and songwriter Magnús Þór Jónsson, aka Megas. The skilfully and professionally crafted black and white documentary leads us to concert rehearsals and features interviews with the man himself, as well as some of the most prominent figures in the Icelandic music scene. Representing the next generation of cinematic talent in Sodankylä is Austrian David Wagner (b. 1982), who arrives to the festival with his debut feature. The award-winning Eismayer (2022) is a powerful, true story-based depiction of a closeted General Major (Gerald Liebmann), whose life is shaken up by the arrival of a new recruit.

Several Finnish filmmaker guests will also arrive to the festival. Two of the domestic films that celebrate their Finnish premieres in Sodankylä are Hanna Västinsalo’s Venice Film Festival world premiere Palimpsest (2022), which offers a speculative solution to the elderly care crisis, and Juha Suonpää’s documentary Lynx Man (2023), which uses trail cameras to tell a different story of the complex human-animal relationship. The Finnish premiere of Aki Kaurismäki’s Fallen Leaves (2023) will be attended by the film’s stars Alma Pöysti and Jussi Vatanen. Members of the festival’s Artistic Committee, brothers Aki and Mika Kaurismäki will also be present at the festival. Mika Kaurismäki’s two newest films, Hassisen Kone – 40 years later (2023), one of the year’s karaoke films, and The Grump: In Search of an Escort (2022) are part of the programme. Actor Terhi Panula will also visit Sodankylä, and the programme includes her first film role Burrball (dir. Veli-Matti Saikkonen, 1970) as well as the rarely seen Finnish-West German co-production Bis später, ich muß mich erschießen (dir. Vojtěch Jasný, 1984). Finland’s favourite actor Tommi Korpela will present his acclaimed film Bubble (dir. Aleksi Salmenperä, 2022). The programme also includes a surprise screening, in which the director of the Finnish pre-premiere will be present.

The Midnight Sun Film Festival will be held for the 38th time in June 14-18, 2023. The festival’s entire programme and filmmaker guests will be announced in May. The schedule will be published on Monday, June 29, and ticket sales will start on Wednesday, May 31.

We would like to thank our partners:

Trade Union Pro, EU/Creative Media, Finland Festivals, Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation, Laitilan Wirvoitusjuomatehdas, Niilo Helander Foundation, the National Audiovisual Institute (KAVI), the Ministry of Education and Culture (OKM), the Finnish Film Foundation (SES), the Sodankylä Municipality, YLE Teema, the French Institute in Finland, Embassy of Mexico.