The international film community is mourning the tragic loss of the grand old man of Finnish cinema, film critic, writer and director Peter von Bagh (1943-2014). Von Bagh passed away last Wednesday at the age of 71 after a long battle with illness.
Peter von Bagh was a celebrated film critic, writer and film historian as well as a documentary filmmaker. He wrote over 40 books on film history and film directors such as Aki Kaurismäki and Alfred Hitchcock. Peter von Bagh was also one of the founders of the legendary Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä, where he acted as festival director for 29 years and illuminated each edition with his personality. Never one to rest on his laurels, he was also working as the artistic director of Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna.
Peter von Bagh wrote and directed dozens of films since the late 1960s, and his personal view into Finnish history, its personalities and art was loved by many. Von Bagh’s films did not find their way abroad for quite a while, but when they did, they attracted immediate following and had wide appeal. His documentary film Helsinki Forever was nominated by critic Jonathan Rosenbaum as one of the ten best films of the first decade of the 21st century. Since then there have been many von Bagh retrospectives, starting with Rotterdam and Buenos Aires, continuing more recently with the retrospectives organized in Moscow, Washington, Wien and Munich.
Despite his serious illness Peter von Bagh remained prolific to the end. His latest film Socialismpremiered this summer in Sodankylä. And on October 8th, in conjunction with the celebrations for Finland as the guest of honor at the Frankfurt bookfair, the English translation of his book Sodankylä Forever will be published. The book is a masterpiece documenting the three decades of the classic Midnight Sun Film Festival.