The 30th Midnight Sun Film Festival breaks records

American director Whit Stillman talking at the Midnight Sun Film Festival.

The 30th edition of the Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä, Lapland broke all prvious audience records. More than 30 000 visitors watched films around the clock in the heart of Lapland.


The visitor numbers were up approximately 15 per cent from last year, press coordinator Hippo Taatila says to BarentsObserver.

The Midnight Sun Film Festival was founded in 1986 by Finnish filmmakers the Kaurismäki brothers, and the Municipality of Sodankylä. The village of Sodankylä is located in the heart of Finnish Lapland, some 120 kilometers above the Arctic Circle, where the sun doesn’t set at all in the summertime. The nature of Lapland and the nightless night provide the Midnight Sun Film Festival a setting few other festivals can compete. The municipality of Sodankylä has 8800 inhabitants.

The festival has every year since it was founded been able to boast some of the world’s top filmmakers.  Jim Jarmusch, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Miloš Forman and Francis Ford Coppola are just a few of them.  

This year there were filmmakers from more than ten countries coming to show their films to the cultivated audiences beyond the Arctic Circle. Mike Leigh from the UK was this year’s main guest, joined by Christian Petzold (Germany), Whit Stillman (USA), Nils Malmros (Denmark), Malgorzata Szumowska (Poland), Miguel Gomes (Portugal) and Auberi Edler (France), among others.

The festival was launched with a head start on Wednesday morning at Cinema Lapinsuu with a matinee dedicated to the life and deeds of Peter von Bagh. The matinee screened short films and featured expert guests from Jouko Aaltonen to Bernard Eisenschitz. The presence of the late von Bagh was vividly present at the festival, in the form of his own films as well as screenings of his personal favourites. Especially The Count, von Bagh’s singular feature-length fiction film, made the audience go wild.

An extensive recap of the year’s Finnish films is a traditional part of the festival selection. This year actress Minna Haapkylä was present to introduce the screening of Jörn Donner’s Armi Alive!, while Armi Toivanen spoke with the audience in connection to Antti Heikki Pesonen’s Headfirst. The Finnish director guests Petri Kotwica (Absolution) Anssi Mänttäri (Black Dog on My Shoulder) and Ville Suhonen (Seamstress) received a warm welcome.

Rare 70mm versions of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Akira Kurosawa’s Dersu Uzala hypnotized spectators at the Big Tent. The ecstasy of karaoke was experienced three times at this year’s festival, with Thursday’s Suomi-Filmi-Sing-Along and Friday’s At the Rovaniemi Fair preparing the audience for Saturday, when Sam Huber, wearing a baroque shirt, danced on top of a grand piano to the melodies of Prince’s Purple Rain. Silent films led by conductor and master pianist Antonio Coppola, Jacques Feyder’s The New Gentlemen (accompanied by Avanti! orchestra) and Frank Borzage’s Lucky Star, were also received with enthusiasm, as was expected.