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FESTIVALS / PRIX Finlande / Slovakie

Le Midnight Sun Film Festival met en avant des joyaux slovaques


- La version en ligne du festival, qui a commencé le 10 juin avec la projection du Jeune Ahmed, n’oublie pas les vieux classiques

Le Midnight Sun Film Festival met en avant des joyaux slovaques
Celebration in the Botanical Garden d’Elo Havetta

Cet article est disponible en anglais.

Despite its move online due to the pandemic (see the interview), Finland’s Midnight Sun Film Festival – which over the years has hosted the likes of Agnès Varda, Terry Gilliam and Francis Ford Coppola, tempted into the Lappish wilderness by the presence of its co-founders, the Kaurismäki brothers – is staying faithful to its signature mixture of the old and the new. Now also through a four-film series of Slovak gems from the 1960s, screened exclusively at the event courtesy of the Slovak Film Institute and available to European audiences until 14 June.

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“Everybody talks about this phenomenon as the Czech New Wave, but historically speaking, it was the Slovaks who led the way,” writes film programmer and critic Olaf Möller, whose master class “When Miracles Were Near” serves as an added bonus to the screenings of Leopold Lahola’s The Sweet Time of Kalimagdora, Elo Havetta’s Celebration in the Botanical Garden, Jozef Zachar’s A Pact With the Devil and Juraj Jakubisko’s Birdies, Orphans and Fools. “We will look at a very brief period of time, 21 months, from 29 December 1967, when A Pact With the Devil opened, until 27 September 1969.” It was a time of political turbulence, the Prague Spring and the so-called “normalisation” following the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. “What further binds this selection is the films’ playful fascination with the fantastic. Fairies and devils fight over the souls of men, while in the heart of Europe, one small nation fought for its right to be different. All of this, the hopes and the crushing of them, is here, in these four films. And more, much more: marvels, miracles and mirth. For this is a cinema of joy, however bleak things might get sometimes.”

“It all started in 2015 – it was my predecessor, Alexandra Strelková, who had struck up a relationship with the festival. In comparison with our Czech counterparts, the Slovak part of the New Wave was, and still is, virtually unknown abroad, and thus Olaf Möller, a Slovak classic cinema aficionado, compiled a selection of five Slovak films for the programme,” says Rastislav Steranka, of the Slovak Film Institute. “Since then, I have been in touch with Midnight Sun. Year 2020, enter the lovely [Midnight Sun programme manager] Milja Mikkola and the mighty Olaf Möller, who came back to me with a question: under these special circumstances, would we provide their audience with a chance to see more Slovak films from that era?” While the selection was up to Olaf Möller, the institute had to check their availability on digital formats first. “Although the Slovak Film Institute has its own digital restoration centre, not all of the films have been digitally restored or even digitised. We had to find some kind of intersection between his film demand and our digital supply.”

“It was lovely to work with the Slovak Film Institute five years ago, as they had 35mm copies of nearly everything – also copies of the films we wanted, which are not necessarily the most obvious choices,” says Milja Mikkola, returning the compliment. Still, it was the COVID-19 scare that made them consider a second helping. “It’s not something we would normally do, as there are many other countries to explore. But during this online edition, we are also looking back [at the festival’s history]. We proposed to Olaf to take a look at this cinema again, and the Slovak Film Institute made sure we received high-quality copies. That’s why we want to show these films outside of Finland as well.” The idea of looking back has been picked up by the festival’s faithful viewers, who have been sharing old photos and memories on social media. “People are reminiscing! They are sad about not being in [festival location] Sodankylä, but they are also glad to be together in some way,” admits Mikkola. “They are going through their own personal archives, scanning their old photos. That was the goal – we wanted it to still feel like us.”

To watch the Slovak films, sign up on with your e-mail address and create a password during your first login. The online event Midnight Sun Forever will end on 14 June.

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(Traduit de l'anglais)

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