Mikko Aromaa • Director, Night Visions
“We are not getting softer; we are broadening our horizons”
by Marta Bałaga
- According to the head honcho of Night Visions, the Helsinki-based genre festival is ready to party like it’s 2019
Set to celebrate its spring edition from 20-24 April, Helsinki’s beloved genre event Night Visions is back: alongside the drums from The Northman, there will be the Finnish theatrical premiere of Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible – Straight Cut and a gala screening of Dual, Riley Stearns’ science-fiction satire shot entirely in Finland. We caught up with the director of the gathering, Mikko Aromaa, to get some details on the upcoming iteration.
Cineuropa: You have many European genre films in the selection this year. What were you looking for?
Mikko Aromaa: I am also a bit surprised by how many we have in the line-up – it’s not that usual for us. The Danish film Speak No Evil [+see also:
interview: Christian Tafdrup
film profile] felt like an absolute must. It was in the Midnight selection at Sundance, along with our very own Hatching [+see also:
interview: Hanna Bergholm
film profile], so it’s almost a Finnish film, in a way [laughs]. Then we have Lucile Hadžihalilović’s Earwig [+see also:
interview: Lucile Hadzihalilovic
film profile], Diabolik [+see also:
film profile], Homebound, Inexorable [+see also:
interview: Fabrice Du Welz
film profile] and My Old School [+see also:
film profile] [about a man who managed to enrol at his old secondary school, pretending to be a teenager again].
Now, this last one is not exactly what you are known for. How does it fit in?
It’s such a beautiful scam, such a crazy story, and that’s what Night Visions is all about. It’s so absurd that it could have been written by Michel Gondry himself! Choosing a film like that is not a sign of us getting softer; it’s a sign of us broadening our horizons. Also, if we didn’t show it, our audience would probably never discover it. We are doing them a favour! As for the Folk Horror section, which consists of four films, that of course brings along that European element very naturally as well. As anyone who has seen Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror knows, that entire on-screen phenomenon can be traced back to Europe, and especially the UK.
It’s an interesting subgenre – people forgot about it for a while, and then Midsommar happened.
It almost brought it back to the mainstream, you could say. But even before that, the whole revival started – from my perspective, at least – with Robert Eggers and The Witch [+see also:
film profile]. That was the milestone. We hosted its Finnish premiere screenings back in 2016.
You are welcoming Eggers again, so to speak – The Northman is your opening film.
It was a very obvious choice. Not just because of him as a director, but also because of the subject matter, which is interesting from a Finnish perspective. We weren’t the original Vikings, not really, but it relates to our history as well, and there are some nice connections to Finland. For instance, the headpiece worn by Nicole Kidman actually comes from Finland. Her husband, the king, has brought it to her as a trophy from one of his trips. In other scenes, there are drums designed by a Finn [Juha Järvinen]. We are bringing them to the opening screening.
You’re bringing the drums?! What else should we expect?
Lynn Lowry, the queen of cult films from the 1970s, will come to Helsinki. She had major roles in Romero’s The Crazies and Cronenberg’s Shivers, and she was also in Paul Schrader’s Cat People. She did a couple of sexploitation films that are fascinating, and we are showing one of them, called Sugar Cookies, from 1973. This gem was actually co-written by the future president of Troma Entertainment, Lloyd Kaufman, and was produced by Oliver Stone. The director of Iceland’s Cop Secret [+see also:
interview: Hannes Þór Halldòrsson
film profile], Hannes Thór Halldórsson, and Upurga [+see also:
interview: Uģis Olte
film profile]’s Ugis Olte are coming as well, plus the directors of Mandrake, Holy Shit! and Vincent Grashaw, who made What Josiah Saw. We found out that his grandmother is Finnish, and this will be his first trip here.
It really feels like you are ready for a pre-pandemic kind of a celebration.
During our December edition, the news about the Omicron variant started coming in during the week of the festival, which obviously had a drastic effect – also on the admissions. You don’t want to sound like a douchebag in these situations, but we are hoping that this will get as close to the “old normal” as possible, mirroring what we still had in 2019. We will have our pop-up shop at the biggest of our three venues, with all kinds of weird-looking stuff and many, many T-shirts, so all things related to the genuine, real, physical festival, in that sense. Also, what’s encouraging is that the first screenings that sold out were both showings of [Tommy Wiseau’s cult classic] The Room. Some of our traditions are clearly coming back.
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