The Midnight Sun Film Festival receives the State Prize for Cinema

The National Council for Cinema awarded the State Prize for Cinema to the Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä for the high quality of its programming and the nurturing of the cinematic art. The year 2015 will mark the Festival’s 30th anniversary.

The State Prizes awarded by the National Arts Councils are given in recognition of the recipient’s meritorious work or long-term activity in support of the art form.

The National Council for Cinema Rationale

The Midnight Sun Film Festival is among the world’s most unique festivals. Next year the celebration of light, cinema and cinephilia has been held in northernmost Finland for 30 years already.

The Festival has carried out important and consistent work by placing both classic films and new cinema within the reach of the audience, and by providing unforgettable moments in the company of the most legendary filmmakers in the world.

The Midnight Sun Film Festival, “Sodis”, has raised and nourished already several generations of lovers of the cinematic art. Its reputation has spread around the globe, popularising not just cinema but also Finland and the Finnish culture. Another indication of the Festival’s uniqueness is that it is impossible to imitate: the inimitable magic of Sodankylä is born out of the location, the time of the event, the programming, and the people.

The National Council for Cinema wants to bestow the award to the Festival for its high-quality programming, uncompromising nurturing of the cinematic art, and its determined enthusiasm. The cinema, Finland and the world all need the Midnight Sun Film Festival.


Morning discussion with Olivier Assayas

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Olivier Assayas. Photo: Annina Mannila

“I don’t remember what exactly was the first film I saw, but the film that made the strongest impression on me was maybe Ben-Hur or some Disney film”, said French director Olivier Assayas when asked about his early experiences with cinema. Assayas’ parents worked in the film business and cinema was always present at his home. The family was visited by great names of French cinema from René Clair to Abel Gance. Still, cinema was never discussed seriously in the family.


Morning discussion with Alain Bergala

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Kuvaaja: Annina Mannila 

”Listening to him, we realize what cinema is really about, what it is in cinema that needs to be saved.” This is how Peter von Bagh summarises the relevance of French director, critic, film educator and Cahiers du Cinéma veteran Alain Bergala in the field of cinema.

“The first film that made an impression on me was Cecil B. DeMille’sThe Ten Commandments and particularly the scene where they cross the Red Sea. Later I heard that many men of my generation experienced the same Big Bang when witnessing that scene”, says Bergala and adds that many films can be seen as generational experiences, although the phenomenon is not as prevalent during the era of television.


Morning discussion with Peter von Bagh and Aki Kaurismäki

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Image: Saana Kotila

”There was a rumour he would interview me, but I will interview him.” This is how Aki Kaurismäki responded to questions concerning the nature of Sunday’s extraordinary morning discussion. Festival Director Peter von Bagh cornered director Kaurismäki with a slew of familiar choices: Hawks or Ford? Kurosawa or Ozu? Dostoyevsky or Kafka? Red or white wine? Wife or cinema? The hour-long discussion included a lot of debate and consensus on many great films and filmmakers. The topics of discussion were diverse: everything from Chaplin to Aarne Tarkas.


Morning Discussions with Pawel Pawlikowski and Alice Rohrwacher

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Pawel Pawlikowski and Olaf Möller. Photo: Frank Rizzo

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Peter von Bagh, Alice Rohrwacher and Olaf Möller. Photo: Frank Rizzo

“It all began when I got to know a circus family. I didn’t know any circus tricks so I had to find some other way to join them”, Alice Rohrwacher says. That other way she found in cinema. She created her first documentary film, Un piccolo spettacolo (2005), by doing, daring and experimenting.


Midnight Sun Film Festival a huge success once again

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Image: Ella Karttunen

The 29th Midnight Sun Film Festival (June 11-15) pampered the international crowd of film goers with four screening venues showing films around the clock. The sold-out screenings included a set of early short films by Charles Chaplin, Victor Sjöström’s The Outlaw and His Wife and John Landis’ Blues Brothers as a karaoke version. All in all, the festival screenings attracted more than 25 000 visitors.

Some of the world’s top filmmakers came to Sodankylä to exhibit their works of art. Olivier Assayas from France led the impressive cast of festival guests which also included Paweł Pawlikowski, Alice Rohrwacher, Veiko Õunpuu, Samantha Fuller, Katell Quillévéré and Hélier Cisterne.

The French film educator Alain Bergala introduced the festival audience to the topic of film education at his seminar on Wednesday. Film education was also strongly present at the festival in the person of Olaf Möller from Germany. The Master Classes hosted by Bergala and Möller gave the viewers a chance to broaden their views on familiar masterpieces of cinema.
Festival Director Peter von Bagh and Olaf Möller invited Alain Bergala, Pawel Pawlikowski, Alice Rohrwacher and Olivier Assayas to join them in the festival’s traditional morning discussions. Sunday began with a real treat when von Bagh invited Aki Kaurismäki to join him on stage at the Kitisenranta school hall. But which of the two interviewed which?

As to premieres of Finnish films, Anssi Mänttäri’s Will the Blues Ever Sleep? and Juha Wuolijoe’s Zarra’s Law received an enthusiastic reception. The Finnish advance screening of von Bagh’s Socialism was a tremendous success and even got Assayas to literally fall on his knees in front of the director. The screening of von Bagh’s film was completely sold out, as was that of Leena Kilpeläinen’s magnificent new documentary Voice of Sokurov, a study on the Russian director. Pekka Lehto’s Emergency Call – A Murder Mystery, a documentary on the criminal case of Anneli Auer, was a talking point all over Finnish media.

This year at the festival, there were many films screened in their rare full-length versions, such as Assayas’ Carlos (5 hours 34 minutes), Lav Diaz’s Norte, the End of History (4 hours 10 minutes) and Edgar Reitz’s Home from Home (3 hours 45 minutes).

There were two karaoke screenings held during the festival’s nights: John Landis’ classic Blues Brothers made the festival audience shake their tail feathers and together with Maunu Kurkvaara’s Lauantaileikit lifted the festival’s music film selection to new heights. The by-now traditional screenings of silent films accompanied by live music lifted the audience’s spirits to the roof. The screenings included Chaplin shorts accompanied by Cleaning Women, as well as The Joyless Street (directed by G.W Pabst) and The Outlaw and His Wife (directed by Victor Sjöström) accompanied by Matti Bye Ensemble.

Pawlikowski and Rohrwacher in Friday’s morning discussion

One more change in Friday’s morning discussion schedule: Alice Rohrwacher will replace Olaf Möller in the second interview.

10AM: Pawel Pawlikoski (Hosted by Olaf Möller)
11AM: Alice Rohrwacher (Hosted by Peter von Bagh)

Creativity in Film Education - A Seminar on How to Learn to Watch and Make Films


Alain Bergala is a French film education expert, filmmaker and author of the book L'hypothèse cinéma (The Aesthetics of Film), which was recently published in Finnish. This year at the Midnight Sun Film Festival, he held a seminar concerning film education for young people and children. The precise topic of the seminar was the pedagogic project Cinéma cent ans de jeunesse, established in 1995, which aims to introduce film education to primary and secondary schools. Now, twenty years after its inception, the scheme spans forty different school classes all over the world.

Opening the seminar, Bergala gave a brief outline of the history of French film education. The guiding ideal of French post-WWII film societies was the idea of high culture uniting people from all backgrounds. However, the advent of television and the recent digitalization of audiovisual culture have diminished artistically ambitious cinema into a small island of its own, which the general public has no connection to.

School classes that commit to the film education scheme spend the whole year working in tandem with their teacher and a professional working in the field of cinema. In the autumn term each student completes exercises that familiarize them with the formal language of cinema. These exercises are based on a DVD of film extracts compiled by the project coordinators. Clear, common rules and rotating roles within the group make sure that the learning process stays equal to all. The spring term culminates with the students making and watching their own films.

Among the examples screened by Bergala illustrating the type of educational film extracts included in the DVD were scenes from classic films that utilize the long take (plan-séquence) in different ways. The students’ task was to consider, without the teacher’s assistance, what is the extracts’ common factor and then film a scene of their own based on how they understood the set of extracts. In order to keep the learning process spontaneous, it is essential that the students do not merely attempt to copy the scenes they have just seen, but instead attempt to say something about a topic personal to them.

At the end of the seminar, Bergala reflected on the benefits and challenges of digitalization. Whereas before the filmmaking process consisted of a clear and linear set of choices, it is now possible to film a limitless amount of material and then work it into an endless number of differing versions. Similarly, the way in which people watch films has also changed: according to Bergala the habit of watching an entire film from start to finish is a disappearing tradition and therefore educators cannot demand that from today’s youth. Instead, they should for example attempt to illustrate the connections between different clips found on the internet.

Changes in morning discussion schedules

There have been changes in the morning discussion schedule of the Midnight Sun Film Festival 2014.

On Thursday, Alain Bergala will replace Gleb Panfilov as morning discussion guest. Bergala’s original morning discussion appearance was originally scheduled to be on Friday. Bergala will have a conversation with Peter von Bagh at Kitisenranta school from 10AM to 12PM.

Friday morning will kick off with a double jackpot; for the first hour, Olaf Möller will interview Pawel Pawlikowski (10AM-11AM). After that, Möller will switch seats in an interview hosted by Peter von Bagh (11AM-12PM). Bergala and Mahamat-Saleh Haroun were first announced as guests of Friday’s morning discussion.

On Saturday, Olivier Assayas will participate in morning discussion, as previously announced (10AM-12PM). Sunday’s morning discussion guest will be revealed later.

Updated schedule of MSFF2014 morning discussions

Thursday 12th at 10AM: Alain Bergala (interviewed by Peter von Bagh)
Friday 13th at 10AM: Pawel Pawlikowski (interviewed by Olaf Möller)
Friday 13th at 11AM: Olaf Möller (interviewed by Peter von Bagh)
Saturday 14th at 11AM: Oliver Assayas (interviewed by Peter von Bagh)
Sunday 15th at 10AM: Surprise

Cancellations: Panfilov and Haroun

Gleb Panfilov and Mahamat-Saleh Haroun have unfortunately had to cancel their visit to Sodankylä. However, the films by Panfilov and Haroun are still included in MSFF2014 program.

Midnight Sun Film Festival 2014 begins tomorrow


Cinephiles from all over the world gather in Sodankylä once again. The 29th annual Midnight Sun Film Festival 2014 (June 11th-15th) will start this Wednesday and four silver screens will be filled with quality film 24 hours a day until Sunday evening.

The official opening screening will be held at the Lapinsuu cinema at 8PM, when Peter von Bagh invites a grand master of Russian cinema, Gleb Panfilov, to introduce his pulse-raising masterpiece The Beginning. Inna Churikova, Panfilov’s fiancée and The Beginning’s staggering lead actress, is also present. This couple has been wooed to come to Sodankylä for years.

Yet even before the opening celebration, the audience has the opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of cinema at 4PM in the advance screening of Richard Ayoade’s black comedy The Double, double starring Jesse Eisenberg. At 4:15PM, festival’s music programme begins with Twenty Feet From Stardom.

Our traditional children’s film screenings are organized by Finnish Film Contact.

All of our festival guests are present at the opening screening. Cannes-winner Mahamet-Saleh Haroun from Chad will introduce his tour de force Grigris at 10:30PM at Lapinsuu. At the same time, the German guru Olaf Möller begins our master class parade by introducing the cult film The Night Caller.

Our fabulous French guest Katell Quillévéré presents her film Suzanne at 0:45AM in Lapinsuu. At the same time, our domestic director guest Juha Wuolijoki hosts a screening of his film Zarra's Law, shot in the U.S. and starring Sopranos-star Tony Sirico and Hollywood legend Burt Young. And only a few hours later, director master Gleb Panfilov will join Peter von Bagh in Thursday's morning discussion.

More treats from Cannes coming to Midnight Sun Film Festival

Image from Clouds of Sils Maria.

In addition to Cannes Grand Prix winner The Wonders, Olivier Assayas’ brand new film Clouds of Sils Maria will be one of the highlights of Midnight Sun Film Festival 2014. Starring in Assayas’ first English language film will be Juliette Binoche, Chloë Grace Moretz and Kristen Stewart, each praised for their performances. Director Assayas will introduce his film next Friday in Lapinsuu at 2:45 PM.

Our repertoire will also be enriched by a special musical screening. Some of the biggest hits of Pulp will rock the Big Tent in Sodankylä night when Florian Habicht's documentary film Pulp is premiered in Finland. Habicht masterly captured the band’s last concert in Great Britain and the frenzy around it. Pulp has sold over 10 million albums worldwide, such as Common People and This Is Hardcore.

Great Finnish actor Martti Suosalo will also arrive to Sodankylä to strengthen the domestic repertoire of MSFF 2014. He will introduce the film Isänmaallinen mies, in which he performs one of the most astounding lead roles of his career.

Unfortunately, director Peter Greenaway’s arrival seems uncertain at this point. Greenaway was supposed to shoot a film in Finland, but the shooting sessions were postponed to September. Therefore the director’s visit to Sodankylä is endangered. However, the cancellation has not yet been officially confirmed.

Our confirmed visitors from abroad are directors Olivier Assayas (France), Gleb Panfilov (Russia), Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (Chad), Pawel Pawlikowski (Great Britain), Alice Rohrwacher (Italy), Veiko Öunpuu (Estonia), Katell Quillévéré (France), Hélier Cisterne (France) and actress Inna Churikova (Russia).

Coming soon: The Blues Brothers Karaoke!

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The Blues Brothers karaoke screening is due in a week - it is about time you started rehearsing! Here's a list of video links to all the singalong songs, for your comfort and convenience.

Written by Taj Mahal and Yank Rachell
Performed by the Blues Brothers and Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi

Written by Adeline M. Brunner
Performed by James Brown and the Reverend James Cleveland Choir

Written by Cab Calloway and Irving Mills
Performed by Cab Calloway
Courtesy of Hologram Records

Written by Teddy White and
Aretha Franklin
Performed by Aretha Franklin

Written by Otha Hayes, Andre Williams and Verlie Rice
Performed by Ray Charles and the Blues Brothers Band with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi

Written by Steve Winwood (as Stevie Winwood), Spencer Davis, and Muff Winwood
Performed by the Blues Brothers and Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi

Written by Dimitri Tiomkin
Performed by the Blues Brothers and Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi

Written by Jerry Wexler, Bert Berns (as Bert Berns) and Solomon Burke
Performed by the Blues Brothers with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi

Written by Robert Johnson
Performed by the Blues Brothers and Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi

Written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Performed by the Blues Brothers, James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles,
Aretha Franklin and a "Crew" with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi

Multiple Viewpoints to Balkan Film Culture


In 2014, the Midnight Sun Film Festival presents a selection of films highlighting the rich and diverse cultural history of the Balkan area. The “Balkan Special” includes a selection of short films from the former Yugoslavia, a few handpicked Yugoslav classics and recent feature-length films of Serbian, Bosnian and international production. Featuring both fictional and documentary films, the series also introduces us to the artistic and industrial aspects of Balkan film culture. The films will be presented by the German film experts Lars Henrik Gass and Olaf Möller and the Polish director Paweł Pawlikowski.


Welcome to Sodankylä

The atmosphere of the Midnight Sun Film Festival is one of the most unique in the whole world: the most famous film directors of the world, young directors, the international audience and the inhabitants of Sodankylä meet under the midnight sun in the relaxed and informal "spirit of Sodankylä". This festival is meant for people who truly love the art of cinema, there are no formalities or fancy cocktail parties, one doesn't have to be afraid of getting lost in the jungle of bureaucracy.

Films are screened in four venues for 24 hours a day, and the actual time is easily forgotten: the sun shines as brightly at 4 a.m. as at 4 p.m.

In 2014, the festival will be held from 11th to 15th of June. The first details about the programme will be announced on April 23rd.

Sebastían Lelio’s Gloria at Midnight Sun Film Festival


Gloria, a critically acclaimed film by the Chile-born director Sebastían Lelio, is brought to Sodankylä by a new kind of co-operation project. The film has attracted praise throughout the year 2013. At Berlinale, Paulina García’s performance as the 58 year-old divorcee looking for romance brought Gloria the Silver Bear for the Best Actress. The film has been commended not only for its dramatic and comedical qualities but also for its score.

Gloria is brought to Finland in co-operation with the distribution company, Atlantic Film Finland. The Finnish premiere of the film was held at Season Film Festival at the end of March. Later in the summer, the film will be screened by the National Audiovisual Institute (at the Orion cinema in Helsinki, at July 15th, 24th and 30th and August 8th). In the fall season, Gloria may also be seen in cinema club screenings.

Poster 2014

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This year's poster features the beautiful couple from Victor Sjöström's silent film The Outlaw and His Wife (1917, original title Berg-Ejvind och hans hustru) - Edith Erastoff as Halla and Victor Sjöström as Berg-Ejvind. In Sodankylä, the film will be accompanied by the performance of the Matti Bye Ensemble.

Poster design by Antti Tapola.

The 2014 Cannes Grand Prix Winner at the Midnight Sun Film Festival


Image from The Wonders (Le meraviglie).

Alice Rohrwacher, 33, the power figure of new Italian cinema, completes the Midnight Sun Film Festival guest list. Rohrwacher will present her film The Wonders (Le meraviglie), the recent Cannes Grand Prix winner. The director’s second feature film immediately placed her among the most talked-about directors.

Like the critics and the audience, the Cannes jury headed by Jane Campion was completely taken with The Wonders, the only Italian film in the competition series. Variety reported that the film was instantly sold to dozens of countries, including France, Australia, Greece, Portugal, Turkey, Taiwan, Latin America, the Benelux countries…

The highly personal portrayal of rural life takes off its hat to at least Eramanni Olmi (The Tree of Wooden Clogs) and the Belgian Dardenne brothers. Located at a remote apiary, the story follows young Gelsomina and her three sisters during a pivotal summer shadowed by their overprotective father.

Alice Rohrwacher studied in Turin and in Lisbon, working e.g. as a musician and film editor before her debut direction Corpo celeste (2011) that was screened at, among others, the Cannes, New York, Suncande, and London film festivals – and will be seen this year in Sodankylä along with The Wonders.