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Stockfish Film Festival 2018

The central industry event was the Nordic female film-makers Meeting Point organised in collaboration with WIFT Iceland (Women in Film and Television). Part of the Meeting Point was the panel on gender equality issues in the Nordic film-making industry which gathered female film-makers from most of the Nordic countries: Iram Haq (NO, What Will People Say), Isabella Eklöf (DK/SE, Holiday), Zaida Bergroth (FIN, Miami), Frida Barkfors (SE/DK, Pervert Park), Ísold Uggadóttir (IS, And Breathe Normally) and Dögg Mósesdóttir (IS, Home Again). The panellists agreed that, when it comes to gender equality, the situation has slowly started to change for the better, especially after the #metoo movement which had strong effects in the Nordic countries, but there is still a long way to go. One of the biggest problems is funding, especially in terms of feature films. Although Finland last year had a record with 40% of features directed by women and Iceland started this year with already two premieres of features directed by women, these are still only exceptions and do not reflect an overall positive trend.

All the six Icelandic shorts premiered in the Shortfish section are quite different from each other stylistically and thematically. The award for the best one went to Brúsi Ólason for his film Viktoría, which beautifully depicts a woman in her 60s who is struggling to run a farm by herself. The film deals with common themes in Icelandic cinema – the hardships and loneliness of a farmer living in harsh environment and isolation of rural Iceland, only this time the farmer is a woman, which is a much-welcomed variation of a familiar theme. This is Ólason’s second-year film at his studies at the Columbia University. His first short See Ya premiered at the Reykjavík International Film Festival last year, while he has also produced and written several others.

Another short which really stood out was the wonderfully colourful The Day the Beans Ran Out by Guðný Rós Þórhallsdóttir, a zombie apocalypse film with Wes Anderson aesthetic set in rural Iceland. The man who has survived the apocalypse lives a comfortable life in the middle of nowhere with his ‘home-made friend’, but his everyday routine suddenly changes when he notices that his stock of canned beans started going missing. Apart from a wonderful sense of humour and beautiful aesthetic, the film also offers a subtle comment on the recent Icelandic tourist boom, which not all Icelanders are very fond of. Þórhallsdóttir already won the Shortfish competition last year with her similarly styled short Vitamin C and put the prize money into very good use by making this film. She now crafted her style even more and I just can’t wait to see her future projects.

The only documentary among the shorts was Örvar Hafþórsson’s I’ll See You Soon, a touching portrait of a mother seen through her elderly daughter’s eyes. The film is both funny and melancholic. In the end, it leaves the audience with very warm feelings. It was a real treat to watch. Hanna Björg Jónsdóttir’s short Behind Closed Curtains is a Norwegian speaking film set in Norway, where the director studied. The film deals with the themes of not belonging and being different. As it is set in a Norwegian high school, the comparisons with SKAM immediately come to mind. During the Q&A, the director, who also wrote the script, said that SKAM was, in fact, one of her influences and that she put a lot of effort into the dialogues between the teenagers in the film, so that they would seem more natural and convincing. Simple, yet powerful short Sama by the director Pantea Kabeh is a story about a refugee girl, based on a true story. The film brings our attention to the small things in life we usually take for granted. And finally, Nine Minute Open by Atli Sigurjónsson and Ed Hancox is an English-speaking humorous short about two musicians who have very different expectations of each other when they meet.

The works in progress section presented seven Icelandic features which are going to be premiered this year, including new films from Of Horses and Men director Benedikt Erlingsson and Baldvin Z (Life in a Fishbowl, Trapped, Case). Erlingsson described his new film as an ‘action art-house thriller with a lot of music’. The film, titled Woman at War, follows Halla, an independent woman in her 40s who is a musician and a passionate environmentalist fighting alone to save the Highlands of Iceland from the local aluminium industry. Just as she managed to find a way to sabotage the industry, an orphan child unexpectedly enters her life. Baldvin Z’s third feature Let Me Fall follows two 15-year old drug addict girls and is based on a true story. While presenting the project, the scriptwriter Birgir Örn Steinarsson said that they wanted to make a film about the problem of addiction in Iceland told from the point of view of the addicts, showing a part of Icelandic reality most people don’t know about or are just choosing to ignore. The film is expected to be released in September. Similarly themed is Snævar Sölvason’s second feature Eden, which tells a story about a small-time dealer on the run who saves a junkie from an overdose in Reykjavik and they become lovers. The director said that with this film he wanted to make an Icelandic version of lovers on the run genre. The premiere is also expected this autumn.

Experienced actor Magnús Jónsson presented his directorial debut Take 5, a black comedy which he also produced and wrote the script for. The main character is a young farmer who wants to be an actor, but nobody wants to play with him. So he decides to kidnap five artists from the city – an actress, a writer, a musician, a director and a fine art artist and force them to make a movie with him, with his old VHS recorder in his old barn. Director and scriptwriter Ásthildur Kjartansdóttir presented her first feature The Deposit which depicts Gísella, a woman in her 40s, who decides to rent out spare bedrooms in her apartment to two immigrant women. The arrangement begins well, but soon Gísella starts to lose control of the situation. Elvar Gunnarsson’s first feature is a horror comedy It Hatched, which tells a story about becoming an adult and facing your responsibilities late in life, but it also contains an egg-laying demon and an ancient demon. While presenting the project, the director said that he was inspired by American horror films from the 70s. Bragi Þór Hinriksson presented his family film The Falcons, about a children’s football tournament in the Westman Islands. Icelandic premiere is set for this spring and the film is also being adapted to a six-episode TV series.