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ALEX FARBA


 

Alex Farba Deleon is a filmfestivals.com ambassador

MY FILM FESTIVAL REVIEWS


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32nd Midnight Sun Film Festival, Sodankylä, Finland

by Alex Deleon

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Résultat d’images pour Sodankylä

 

The Midnight Sun Film Festival takes place  in the Lappland village of Sodankylä on the Arctic Circle in northern Finland during the longest days of the year in the Middle of June. 

It is so named because at this time of the year at this elevated latitude the sun never sets. At midnight the light of day in Sodankylä looks like late afternoon down south in Helsinki  and around 3AM Old Sol does dip almost to the horizon but not quite, then starts another upward swing.  Meanwhile films are being projected around the clock as bedazzled Finnish cinephiles roam the premises from one tent to another and fight off the giant mosquitoes with ample doses of vodka as a natural repellant. Apparently the Finnish mosquitoes don't have a taste for blood mixed with alcohol.  

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Screenings in the big circus tent do indeed have a circus like atmosphere but can get pretty chilly in damp windy weather which may arise without warning. There are also more sheltered screenings in the schoolhouse around which the festival is centered or in a proper cinema building a short walk away. The entire atmosphere is very infomal, highly evergized and the audiences are composed almost entirely of sophisticated savvy film buffs and specialized film journalists who know what they're here for -- to see a prime selection of unusual films ,many of historical importance, and many by acclaimed international directors -- and often to interact with such directors in lively Q and A sessions following screenings. 

Sodankylä is not an easy place to get to and therefore attracts people who really want to be here to immerse themselves in the art of cinema once a year and meet up close with a heady selection of festival guests. 

This year the 32nd edition if this unique upper echelon niche festival takes place from June 14 to 18 and will have as guests the kind of artists that only a festival of this nature can attract.

The two main guests are alone worth msking the trip.

Spanish director Carlos Saura, now 85 and still active, forms along with Luis Buñuel and Pedro Almodovar a triad of Spain's most renowned filmmakers. Among his masterpieces in a career going way back to the fifties, one can mention the all flamenco dancing CARMEN, 1983, spotlighting the dazzling terpsichorean talents of Antonio Gades, and 

IBERIA, 2004, in which he filmed a collection if the top Spanish flamenco guitarists and other musicians preforming different versions of Isaac Ibañez's stirring Suite Iberia, which in his hands became a masterful musical creation in its own right aside from being a precise Documentary.  In addition numerous historical dramas pertaining  to theb Spanish civil war during which Saura was reared, make him one of the great European directors of the century.

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The amazing Antonio Gades in Carlos Saura's amazing all flamenco-dance CARMEN ...

German actress Hanna Schygulla, born 1943, came to prominence in the sixties as the stunning young muse of Maverick German genius Rsiner Werner Fassbinder. By the seventies she had developed into one of the European cinema's most glamorous stars of the kind they used to make in Hollywood. .  Altogether she starred in over twenty Fassbinder  films (in spite of disagreements with him over the interpretation of certain roles) and was awarded a Berlinale Golden Bear in 1978 for "The Marriage of Maria Braun". Schygulla also registered strongly in such iconic roles as Effi Briest and Lili Marlene. Other leading directors (Godard, Wajda,Schloendorfer,  Hungarian Bela Tarr, and Carlos Saura!)  enlisted her talents later, until she finally grew tired of being a film star and took up a career in France as a very successful Chanson singer.

A number of her non Fassbinder films will be screened here incuding Schloendorfer's The Circle of Deceit (1981), Godard's Passion (1982), Israeli Amos Gitai's The Exile (1992) and Turco-German director Fatih Akan's The Edge of Heaven (2007) affording insight into the overall trajectory of this remakable and and unique actress's lengthy film career. 

The thing about Schylgulla is that she was sexy, wild, rebellious, and highly tealented all at the same time and her gutsy personality always shows through the slick glamorous exterior. I have seen all of her Fassbinder films and am now looking forward to seeing her work with other talented directors. This is just the kind of thing that the Sodankylä festival is noted for.

Résultat d’images pour Hanna Schygulla as Lili Marlene, 1981

Hanna Schygulla as Lili Marlene, 1981

 

Culinary note: The Daily lunch available at the schoolhouse dining room (and elsewhere in town) is Reindeer stew, mash potatoes and Arctic brambleberries on the side. Worth a trip to the Far North even without a film festival to cavort around in.

 

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Local lady Raini Karkonen manages the Hotelli Sodankylä which serves as the VIP venue for selected festival guests     ~~  pictured here with Hungarian embroidered shawl ~~

Comments (2)

Bijaya Jena comments

It sounds amazing.I will surely bring my film next year. But pl let me know if it is a competitive festival.My daughter Lopa should visit next tear to write about this festival in India as hardly anybody knows about it in India.

Regards Bijaya Jena,National award winning film maker,international juror.
-~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Namaste B.J.

Sodankylä is not a competitive fest.

It's too good a festival to waste time on such trivial pursuits.

they are interested in flm quality here, not in pacifying artistic egos.  Anyway, I'm sure Lopa would love it. There is something very special about the Finns and their true love of cinema. 

Sodankylä is infinitely better than Cannes in every way -- it's 

                                              pure!  

sounds fantastic

Alex:

This sounds fantastic!  And about a thousand times better than Cannes.  I envy you.I would love to try reindeer stew.  I would love to see the films of the haunting Schygulla again.  A cliché, I know: but she was haunting.  There was always a mysterious quality about her quite apart from her brilliance as an actress.  You can see it even in the still below.  And I don't think it ever came up in our many discussions, but EFFI BRIEST is one of my favorite films.  Fassbinder, on the whole, is not a favorite director: a fascinating creator, an astonishing comet (cliché again well deserved) that burned out with astonishing rapidity; but for me he was too rapid, too full of ideas, too furious in his energy.  If he had made half as many films they would have been better, because too often they were half-baked, or even quarter-baked.  By cranking out two, three, four films a year, plus directing in theatre as well, he did not allow himself time to do the ideas justice, so we are left with more fascinating fragments, or hodgepodges, than finished films: though even then, some of those hodgepodges are electric.  CHINESE ROULETTE, anyone?  A very strange but dazzling film.  Or even the tawdry, and difficult to sit through, but also poisonously fascinating BITTER  TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT?  I also realize that his energy and sheer overwhelming pace of production were a part of his appeal, and his uniqueness; but--to me, at least--his ultimate legacy will rest in the most finished and classical film he ever made.

Because out of nowhere this astonishingly fertile but also astonishingly half-baked and anarchic talent takes one of the great (unread) novels of the 19th century and turns it into a tower of restrained, controlled, and purist filmmaking: all the things that Fassbinder was NOT.  He does it justice: he films Fontane's EFFI BRIEST without fassbinding it.  To this day I do not know how he did it or what the wellsprings of his decision were, but to me it is by far his finest film, and  the best, I think, to come out of the New German Cinema.  Herzog's AGUIRRE THE WRATH OF GOD runs it a fairly close second; but nothing is quite like EFFI BRIEST.  Imagine: a great film as great as the great  novel on which it is based.  How often have we ever seen that?  I suspect that F must have revered the novel, as well he should: it may be the best ever to come out of Germany.

Enjoy Finland and the festival.  I know you will.

P

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