True story: I was walking down the main street and met two elderly couples, who asked me if I could show them the way to the restaurant. I said I was going there myself, so why not have lunch together? We did. They happened to be US directors Robert Wise, who collected four Oscars for The Sound of Music (1966) and West Side Story (1962), andStanley Donen, who received an honorary one in 1998, having directed Singing in the Rain (1952), among others – accompanied by their wives.
This could only happen in Sodankylä, the home of the Midnight Sun Film Festival – not the most obvious place for such an event: a village 120 km north of the Arctic Circle, with 8,000 inhabitants, 35,000 reindeer, one cinema (the Lapinsuu) and billions of mosquitoes. The festival takes place a week before the mosquito season starts, but there are many early arrivals, so with your accreditation comes a bottle of mosquito repellent.
Wise and Donen were there in 1994 – long after the festival had started in 1986, when US director Samuel Fuller and French director Bertrand Tavernier were among the honorary guests. “Woodstock was f*****g nothing compared to this,” US director DA Pennebaker – who was awarded an honorary Oscar and directed Don’t Look Back (1967) – told me the following year, and Sodankylä has used it in its publicity ever since.
This year unspooling from 11-15 June, the Midnight Sun Film Festival will pay homage to film classics, timeless masterpieces and established directors: the UK’s Peter Greenawayand Russia’s Gleb Panfilov, for example. However, contemporary cinema will also be honoured: the most recent addition to the guest list is Italian director Alice Rohrwacher, whose The Wonders[+] won the Grand Prix at the recent Cannes Festival. French director Olivier Assayas, whose Clouds of Sils Maria[+] was in competition on the Côte d’Azur, will also be in Sodankylä. And finally, as usual, the festival will also feature a focus on Finnish cinema.