Sodankylä film festival: a unique experience in the mist of the midnight sun
In a remote village in Lapland, with around 8,000 inhabitants, the atmosphere undergoes a complete transformation during one week of the year. Two circus tents are installed, and a large number of movies from the past and present are screened in these tents and other venues of the town. This year the festival welcomed 35000 visitors with 64 sold out screenings.
The event took place from June 14th to 18th, and I'm referring to the Sodankylä Film Festival, also known as the Midnight Sun Film Festival due to the opportunity to witness the Midnight Sun phenomenon. The festival is highly original and unique, with film screenings, panel discussions, and events continuing throughout the day and night. There is no clear distinction between day and night as darkness never descends. Additionally, we were fortunate to have favourable weather with temperatures reaching around 20 degrees, which is quite unusual for Lapland. "You never know what to expect," a local journalist told me. "Sometimes we even experience temperatures as low as 2 degrees! Last year, for example, it was very cold." Besides the unusual weather, another event distinguished the festival. One of the founders of the festival, who grew up in Sodankylä himself, and is known as one of the most important directors in the world, came as a guest, premiering his new movie in Finland, Jury Price Cannes 2023, Kuolleet Lehdet (Fallen Leaves). I'm obviously talking about Aki Kaurismäki who gave a lot of emotions among the audience upon its arrival with the first projection of the film in Finland and introduced it himself and three members of the cast: the main characters Jussi Vatanen, Alma Pöysti, and the little dog Alma who was also very active in the film.
There were many guests invited, Finnish guests like the singer Olavi Uusivirta, the actor Tommi Korpela (Kupla,2022), and non-Finnish, like the director Sergei Loznitsa.
This year the symbol of the festival was the picture of a Finnish film from 1969: Ruusujen Aika (Time of Roses, Risto Jarva). A film set in a hypothetical 2012 and it is certainly interesting and curious how they imagined today´s time. It was a rare opportunity to go and watch it with English subtitles.
This festival is certainly an opportunity not only for a greater Finnish film culture (most of the films are subtitled in English) but also to discover many independent films a global level.
I myself concentrated above all on Finnish cinema, like the more artistic Metsurin Tarina (The Woodcutter Story, Mikko Myllylahti, 2022) and the feature Kupla (Bubble, Aleksi Salmenperä, 2022) as it is very hard to find subtitles, but certainly the most exciting event was seeing Aki Kaurismäki present his new film. They also screened classics from other years, like Mulholland Drive by David Lynch (2001).
Midnight Sun is magical festival, I found myself at a party near the festival venue, observing Aki Kaurismäki happily conversing with Pekka Haavisto, the Finnish minister for Foreign Affairs, while Olavi Uusivirta was singing traditional Finnis folk songs, and people of all ages danced. It felt as if I had stepped into a film itself, where time stood still and finding myself in a different reality. They told me that every year it seemed like time didn't pass in this festival. We were in the midst of the Midnight Sun timeline, where the clock stopped, and the sun never seemed to set. Darkness only arrived at the end of a film, in these iconic tents, similar to circus tents, projected real works of art, transporting viewers to another reality.