14.6. Lingering Poetry, Bold Warmth and Wild Humour – The Festival is in Full Swing!

The morning discussion with director Michaelangelo Frammartino brought the sunshine from Tuscany to the School, followed by another talk with Kazahstanian director Adilkhan Jeržanov. Frammartino told touching stories of his younger days in Italy in the 70s and about his first encounters with cinema. The director talked about his relationship with scenes, in which, according to him “reality directs him and not the other way round.” This is apparent in his habit of observing events from still camera positions so that the passage of time and peculiar happenings are emphasised.

First half of the day included a screening of Frammartino’s The Hole (2021) for its second screening at Midnight Sun Film Festival. The meditative film without almost any dialogue dives deep into a hole in Calabria, Italy, the director’s home region. The film was cast with real cave researchers.

In his discussion, Jeržanov talked about his childhood in the Soviet period and influences as a filmmaker. He told that he was open to all kinds of movies as a child, and saw particularly many Bruce Lee movies. However, Jeržanov said he grew tired of the violence, and in his own films he is careful of how to depict it. “Violence is disgusting and it has to be disgusting on the big screen too,” he states. The director known for his humoristic, absurd style mentioned Aki Kaurismäki among others as his influences.

Jeržanov’s film The Gentle Indifference of the World (2018) was screened at the beginning of the day. With dry humour, the visually impressive film examines themes familiar to Jeržanov, such as corruption, justice and the position of a small human in an unjust system.

In the morning, the festival’s youngest audiences were offered their own cinematic experiences. The atmospheric Small Tent was full of anticipation and warmth before the screening. The projectionist gave a short introduction with background information about the film and older cinema technology. As the reel span into motion, the children curiously observed how the projector was used, but soon the magic of cinema captured their eyes on the screen.

In the Big Tent, the day began with Mika Kaurismäki’s breakthrough The Worthless (1982). The film is known particularly as the launching of both Kaurismäki brothers’ careers, and it made waves with its unique style and challenging the limits of cinema. The screening was presented by the director and Pirkko Hämäläinen who played opposite late Matti Pellonpää. They shared more about the making of the film, and the eventful journey to finish and release it. 

After the screening, the publication of a new book about the movie was celebrated in the Small Tent. Written by Raija Talvio and Mikko Mattila, the book is a multivoiced work about the making of the film and the love for it. At the publication event, it was recalled how the Kaurismäki brothers quite decisively decided that they would make a movie that changes everything. Pirkko Hämäläinen of the cast reflected on how grim and in need of fresh approaches the movie field was in the 80s. That is why The Worthless emerged, which was according to Hämäläinen a sincere and boldly gentle film. Afterwards she was content that at 22 years old she did not know that she was making the most important film of her career. Later she was known in the industry as “the blonde from that movie.” 

In the book’s foreword the authors Raija Talvio and Mikko Mattila write: “The Worthless became a changing point and the measure of what a good crew and spirit really mean.”

The recent passing of the composer of the film Anssi Tikanmäki in the beginning of June threw a shadow over the screening. Kaurismäki and Heikkilä praised his work, especially the legendary opening arrangement of the Finlandia hymn. Tikanmäki’s version transferred the audience back to the early 80s and the fantastically romantic, surprising world of the film in just a couple of minutes.

At midday, Midnight Sun El Clásico football match was played between the home team and the outside world. The festival staff and guests were full of excitement and community spirit. The supporters gathered in the audience to cheer for their favourites. The match was played with plenty of skill and great spirit. The changing weather did not matter as light showers refreshed the players in warm sunshine. Even though the game was thrilling, the relaxed atmosphere and laughter filled the field.

The heat in Cinema Kitinen was eased with water offered by the door as Olaf Möller welcomed the audience back to the beach through the projected image. He referred to Rangel Văltšanov’s Sun and Shadow (1962) as a “Bulgarian atomic bomb beach movie”, and according to the curator it was the inspiration for the whole Seasons in the Sun masterclass, while it was originally supposed to be a part of a series of Bulgarian films. Möller suspected that if the film was not screened at Midnight Sun Film Festival, it would have not been seen anywhere else as Bulgarian cinema from the 1950s is not exactly mainstream in the 2020s. Möller believes that the audience in Sodankylä is an exception that still enjoys earlier Eastern European cinema.

On the sunny Friday afternoon, the wind shook the structure of the Small tent as panelists discussed ice, snow and the climate and the movie about them. The conversation Secrets of Ice was led by professor of meteorology Timo Vesala University of Helsinki, and the participants were professor of University of Tampere Johannes Riquet, doctor of technology Anna Kontu from the Finnish Meteorological Institute and professor of physics Mikko Sipilä from University of Helsinki. The topics that came up included the representation of thinning glaciers, colonialism in connection to research in the arctic areas and environment.

In the early evening, two short films by Alice Rohrwacher, De Djess (2015) and The Pupils (2022). Rohrwacher presented the films with the band that composed their music Cleaning Women. The director ended up collaborating with the Finnish group with a lot of personality after meeting them originally in the Midnight Sun Film Festival on her last visit.

Another familiar face from this year’s festival was connected to the origins of The Pupils. While Rohrwacher was tending her garde, Alfonso Cuarón called and asked if she would want to make a Christmas movie. The collaboration was fruitful as the short film brought an Academy Award for the best Best Live Action Short Film for Rochwacher as the director and Cuarón as the producer. Around the same time Mika Taanila’s Failed Emptiness (2024) which tells its story with image, sound and written poetry on single-coloured background.

When the evening arrived, the Big Tent filled up with the silent film concert of the night. The screened film was F.W. Murnau’s City Girl (1930). Murnau’s silent films are a familiar and anticipated part of the programme at the festival. The screening was accompanied by pianist Neil Brand, who has a career of almost 40 years as a silent film accompanist. The Dodge Brothers joined him with their relaxed bluegrass. The bassist of the band Mark Kermode was also seen in his masterclass, and he warmed up the audience by telling about the band’s approach. They wanted to honour traditions with improvisation. He told that that early silent film screenings with music were mostly performed in pubs with random groups of local musicians and DIY spirit.

In late evening, Miia Tervo’s The Missile (2023) was screened in the Big Tent. Based on real events of 1984, the drama-comedy is wildly fun with political satire and coming-of-age ingredients. Set in Lapland, the movie is full of northern spirit. By the end of the day, the filmmakers, press and staff got a chance to experience the enchanting scenery and merriment on the dance floor at beautiful Porttikoski.

In the early morning sun, Aslı Özgen’s All of a Sudden (2016), Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men (2006), Teemu Nikki’s Death Is a Problem for the Living (2023) and Adilkhan Jeržanov’s The Gentle Difference of the World (2018). The night continued as both the sun of the nightless night and pouring rain flowed over the festival’s most persistent night owls.

Image: Inez Kaukoranta