15.6. The Second to Last Festival Day Was Experienced in All the Colours of a Rainbow

Saturday began in grey but gentle summer weather, that did not bother the windy ticket sales queue. The play between sunshine and rain formed rainbows to treasure the first Pride march in Sodankylä’s history. The colourful company found its destination by river Kitinen. Midnight Sun Film Festival wishes a revolutionary Pride month, and the organisation commits to work towards a more equal and open world.

In Cinema Lapinsuu, the morning began with Tia Kouvo’s award-winning Family Time (2023). The fun but awkward film set during family Christmas is spiced with tragicomical elements in its apt depiction of family dynamics. The audience is taken on an emotional rollercoaster of recognisable moments that are familiar to many Finnish people.

The morning discussion on Saturday gave Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón centre stage as he told about his youth and taking part in film clubs. According to Cuarón, the attraction of the clubs was perhaps more about the community than the films screened. In 1991 Cuarón released his debut feature Love in the Time of Hysteria. However, the director said he understood what filmmaking was really about a decade later. According to Cuarón, the resulting film is not as important as the lessons learned for later work. The director dives into his childhood and Mexican class society in Y tu mamá también (2001) and Roma (2018). Both were screened in the Big Tent after the morning discussion.

Cinema Kitinen saw Isabella Eklöf’s Kalak (2023) as the first screening of the day. The Nordic co-production is set in Greenland empathetically follows a protagonist traumatised by a difficult relationship with his father. The film with harshly beautiful, atmospheric scenery also includes some astounding moments that allude to the colonialism of Denmark.

At midday, the audience of the Big Tent was transported to Mexico in the early 1970s with Roma depicting the story of maid Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) who works for a dissolving middle-class family during the political turmoil. Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón draws from his own childhood in the film that received many awards, including the Golden Lion from Venice Film Festival, ten Academy Award nominations and three wins.

In the afternoon Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Accatone (1961) was screened at the School with director Alice Rohrwacher’s opening. Rohrwacher highlighted the theme of identification; the audience does not identify with the protagonist, but is positioned before him. The unfortunate faith of the main character is clear to the viewer from the beginning. Rohrwacher also explained how Pasolini had trouble finding financing for the film based on the synopsis, but showing the story in pictures helped the filmmaker-poet captivate the heart of the story to financiers.

Curated by Jennifer Barker, the flowing, dreamlike masterclass programme Animated Dreams took the full venue along on a ride that showcased a love story between an owl and a duck, flight practice, and sudden goodbyes. In the short animation Mr. Frog Went A-Courting (1974) by Evelyn Lambart dreams and love are shattered suddenly when a snake eats Mr. Frog on his honeymoon. In The Lady and the Cellist (1965) by Jean-François Laguionie, a cello concert echoes in the magical world of danger and love. Ando Keskküla’s The Story of the Little Rabbit (1975) a young rabbit faces scary stories of bears, foxes and wolves, but finds out that mice are the scariest. Accompanied by Andrzei Markowski’s captivating and hollow soundtrack, Matter (1962) by Kazimierz Urban depicts the logic of transformation and dynamic change.

Around the same time, Trade Union Pro held a passionate discussion on societal issues in the Small Tent. Director Saara Cantell considered it clear that oppositional stances in society have grown and the cuts in culture by the Finnish Parliament significantly affect the film industry. “One term of office can be enough to destroy the systems that have been in place for decades,” she said. Actor Martti Suosalo highlighted that many artistic projects are made with governmental funding. “Young creatives and crews need to receive support,” Suosalo said. “We will become endangered if left without tending.”

According to Suosalo art became less political for a long time after pro-Soviet stances of Finnish Taistoism, but politics have returned to the field. “Now you cannot keep silent on topics such as forestry and increase of racism,” Suosalo said. “You have to become more active, otherwise you will feel horrible for doing nothing.”

Actress Oona Airola also told that she sees the rise of oppositional thinking in society, and is worried about the actions of the current parliament. She thinks that people with influence and fame have an important role in finding common ground in public discourse. “This is the time for artists to rise up and take a stand. Our duty is to care.”

Saturday night kicked off with the recent, visually captivating and impactful documentary Once Upon a Time in a Forest (2024) by Virpi Suutari. The screening ended with a loud applause and shouts by the audience: “What do we want? Natural forests!”

The documentary intimately portrays young forest movement activists. The passionate care for natural forests blends with striking worry for the future. The documentary teaches by touching the audience with its close look into the lives and thoughts of young activists. At the same time, it is a detailed depiction of friendship.

Present at the event were director Virpi Suutari, one of the main figures in the film, Minka Virtanen, and cinematographer Teemu Liakka. Suutari shared more about the project’s background and the forest she inherited from her mother that gave her the idea to make the documentary. As a new forest-owner, Suutari first met with older environmental activists, but one of them recommended her to concentrate on the younger generation of activists. Virtanen told in an inspiring address about the worries the youth has about the forests and future of the environment. Documentaries like this help spread the message that biodiversity loss is an acute issue. The large differences between the generations came up in the director’s statement, as she said her mother would turn in her grave if she knew that Suutari had made a movie about environmentalism. 

The sold-out silent film concert filled the Big Tent once again. Into the Night (1930) by Charles Vanel is a dark, sensational and visually diverse tragedy set in a mining town. It is a shame, that it is the only feature film that Vanel directed. The group accompanying the film was introduced by Alice Rohrwacher: “They asked me to introduce the band because I love Aliens and this band is from another world.” Onto the stage stepped two of the members, cleaning robots, of the band Cleaning Women. The group is known for their experimental music, surprising sound and instruments. Their unique musical interpretation excited the audience with their rhythms, and took them on the journey through the dark twists of the film. Rohrwacher noted before the film that the cleaning robots from planet Clinus had arrived to show us the wonders of our world through music. The audience was able to immerse themselves in the audiovisual wonderland that was at the same time ours, and from another world.

Olaf Möller started the screening of Hot Summer by excitedly highlighting how special it is to see Gidget Goes Hawaiian as one of the final Sunday’s reruns, making it the first ever audience-favourite from a masterclass programme. Möller hoped that the audience would be inspired to sing along to the beach film, as the laugh-out-loud funny musical from the GDR had been popular on both sides of the country split in two by the Iron Curtain. The curator lectured on the film set on Baltic beaches, its football themed sequel, general background information about the German Democratic Republic and the country’s film industry. “Welcome back that very hot place!”

In the evening, the Big Tent was filled to the brim with the most recent film by Yorgos Lanthimos, Kinds of Kindness (2024). The movie continues the hyped director’s collaboration with Emma Stone and offered the festival audience with loads of weirdness, sex and black humour. The visually stunning picture flashed with memorable moments from cannibalism, to a dog driving a car and Emma Stone doing the floss on a parking lot.

The almost three-hour-long anthology film was fitting for a rainy day as it led the audience to its own, amusing and horrifying bubble. The extreme absurdism caused many roaring bursts of laughter, but also made the audience hold their breath in silence in the right moments. Even though the director was not present, the film led into many interesting conversations between the audience members.

At midnight, the festival audience got rowdy with Jonathan Demme’s concert movie Stop Making Sense (1984). The karaoke screening was fronted by Olavi Uusivirta, who captured the stage presence of Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and gave his all to the audience. Wild dance moves were seen on both the screen and in front of it. On a cold summer night, the atmosphere was warm as the front of the venue was full of dancing fans. The audience enjoyed the screening just like it was a rock concert: they jumped around and shouted along to both Uusivirta and Byrne. Uusivirta was not wrong when he stated that the karaoke screening was going to be one of the highlights of the summer.

At two am, the traditional Night School of Experimental Cinema curated by Mika Taanila was on the timetable. The students were led on a psycho-geo-scientic adventure through cities and film forms, as the route went through Forssa to Toronto, from New York to the ruins of Atlantis under the sea. The highlight of the lesson was Natalia Kozieł-Kalliomäki’s expanded cinema performance Warm Data, and its applause almost did not end at all. The night school ended accompanied with uncontrolled laughter as the ecstatic fish-imagery of Marsa Abu Gawalas by Gerard Holthuis made its trick on the audience. After the programme ended, Taanila formed an impromptu experimental breakfast club on the schoolyard.