‘Like Standing Beside an Orange Dettifoss’

Those fortunate enough to be present at the Fagradalsfjall volcanic eruption site on Thursday morning were treated to an awesome sight: a glowing wave of lava tumbling down a hillside. Luckily for the rest of us, the spectacle was captured in a video by geographer Daníel Páll Jónasson.

“It was like standing beside an orange Dettisfoss,” Daníel Páll remarked in an interview with Vísir, likening the flow to one of Iceland’s most magnificent waterfalls, reputed to be one of the most powerful in Europe.

https://www.facebook.com/1595310201/videos/1012424422825763/

Daníel Páll has been a regular visitor to Fagradalsfjall since the eruption began in March 2021. He filmed the video above on his 27th visit to the site and has also taken tens of thousands of photographs of it. But he still finds the experience of witnessing the eruption moving. “It was amazing to stand there next to it. Absolutely wild.”

Domestic Restrictions Relaxed, Government Aims To Curb Infections, Not Eliminate Them

Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir

Rapid tests will make events up to 500 people possible and swimming pools and gyms will be allowed to operate at 100% capacity. These are the most notable changes to infection prevention regulations that will take effect next Saturday. Steps are being taken to relax infection prevention restrictions slowly, Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir stated after the government’s meeting this morning.

While the general rule states that gatherings will continue to be limited to 200 people or fewer, cultural and sporting events will be allowed to have up to 500 people provided they present results from rapid tests upon entry. The country’s largest theatres, concert halls and sports federation will be consulted on how best to implement the new rules. Swimming pools and gyms will be allowed to operate at full capacity instead of the former 75% and restaurants will be able to seat up to 200 people.

The changes to infection prevention restrictions are based on suggestions from Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason. He suggests relaxing restrictions as the current wave of the pandemic appears to be slowly receding and the situation at the National Hospital seems to be under control at the moment, due to precautions taken within the hospital and the healthcare system in general, Svandís states. According to the Minister, the new restrictions follow the Chief Epidemiologist’s suggestions exactly.

The government’s press release notes that regulations on quarantines were amended in the past week to make them less burdensome and new regulations allowing the use of self-tests took effect.

The press release also noted that curbing the spread of infections seems to be the most desirable and most responsible way to get Iceland out of the COVID-19 emergency situation. Instead of eliminating infections with harsh restrictions or allowing the virus to run rampant, steps will be taken to reduce the number of infections while allowing society to operate as close to normal as possible. They state that this method is mostly in line with the Chief Epidemiologist’s recommendations.

The Chief Epidemiologist’s data shows that the likelihood of infection among unvaccinated individuals is twice that of vaccinated individuals. Unvaccinated people are also four times more likely to require hospitalization and six or seven times more likely to land in the ICU. They come to the conclusion that widespread vaccinations in Iceland has tempered the spread of infection but in particular, hindered serious illnesses from the virus.

Currently, 71% of Iceland’s total population is fully vaccinated and 75.4 % have received at least one shot of the vaccine. Children under the age of 12 are not eligible for vaccination but vaccinations for children aged 12-16 began last week.

The new restrictions will take effect Saturday, August 28 and will be in effect for three weeks.

Alma Nominated for Nordic Council Film Prize

Icelandic film Alma, written and directed by Kristín Jóhannesdóttir, is Iceland’s nominee for the 2021 Nordic Council Film Prize. The award is accompanied by a prize of DKK 300,000 [ISK 5.9 million; $47,471] to be split equally among the screenwriter, director, and producer, and is given annually to a film from one of the five Nordic nations. The winner will be announced in an awards ceremony in Copenhagen on November 2.

Per the Icelandic Film Centre, Alma is “the story of a young woman who is serving time in a psych ward for murdering her boyfriend, a crime she can’t remember. But when she discovers [he] is still alive, she decides to escape and kill him after all.”

Rather than repeating typical tropes, however, the Icelandic selection committee noted that Alma allows its protagonist space for growth and healing. As they wrote in their nomination, “What starts out as a noirish revenge fable becomes a beautiful love story that centers around the process through which a victim of abuse finds her way through trauma and grief to finally rediscover her roots and her distinctive voice.”

“Employing biting humor as well as striking visual imagery, Alma deftly combines an intense poetic vision and a socially critical feminist angle.”

Alma is Kristín Jóhannesdóttir’s third feature (Rainbow’s End and As in Heaven) and was produced by Gudrún Edda Thórhannesdóttir, Fridrik Thór Fridriksson, and Egil Ødegård. It stars Snæfrídur Ingvarsdóttir, Kristbjörg Kjeld, Emmanuelle Riva, and Hilmir Snær Gudnason.

Iceland has won the Nordic Council Film Prize three times since it started being awarded in 2002. Director Benedikt Erlingsson has won twice, for Of Horses and Men in 2014 and Woman at War in 2018, and Dagur Kári won for Virgin Mountain in 2015.

Bíó Paradís will be showing all of this year’s nominated films during its Nordic Film Festival, which will run from September 23 – 26. All of the films will be shown with English subtitles.

Czech Artist Converts Ship’s Wheelhouse into ‘Cultural Kiosk’ in Seyðisfjörður

A ship’s wheelhouse dating back to 1969 is getting a new life as a piece of public art cum snack stand in the East Iceland village of Seyðisfjörður, RÚV reports. The project, dubbed KIOSK 108, is the brainchild of Czech artist Monika Fryčová, who decided to turn her attentions outward during lockdown and find a way to make a meaningful contribution to the local community. The plan? To take an abandoned ship’s wheelhouse and convert it into a ‘cultural kiosk.’

“When the COVID situation came, I thought it’s very useless for me to sit behind [my] computer and wait [to get] sick,” Monika explained. “So, I start[ed] to think about how I can make public art for outsiders and local people, to make something meaningful with this object.”

Screenshot, RÚV

Monika plans to serve light meals and drinks from the converted wheelhouse, including fish soup, hot dogs, coffee, and beer. She’s using old timber to build a small bar inside the cabin where people can sit and look out the window onto the fjord. She’s also plans to create a kid’s corner for children to play in and have a stage on the roof where musicians and artists can perform.

Monika is selling KIOSK 108 stickers and t-shirts to raise money for the project, which has also received a grant from Uppbyggingarsjóður Austurlands, the East Iceland Development Fund.

Watch Monika’s interview with RÚV (in English) here; and another video she made about KIOSK 108, here.

Status of Afghans Offered Asylum Iceland Uncertain

Ministry for Foreign Affairs

An estimated 120 Afghans have been offered asylum in Iceland but thus far, officials have only managed to get in contact with 40 of these individuals. RÚV reports that among those Iceland is opening its doors to are Afghans who have worked for NATO and also students who have studied in Iceland as part of GRÓ, the Gender Equality Studies and Training Programme, which operates under the auspices of UNESCO.

“The situation [in Afghanistan] is very difficult, to say the least, both in the country in general and also at the airport [in Kabul],” said Sveinn H. Guðmarsson, information officer for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “I can’t totally say how many people have managed to get to the airport and through the gate. But we have been in contact with around 40 people.”

Sveinn said that it is not yet possible to say when the first Afghan asylees will arrive in Iceland, but authorities are working against the clock. “…[T]he Taliban have stated very clearly that the foreign force that is keeping the airport running will not get any further extensions beyond the end of this month. So the window is closing.” He said that staff have been working through the night to facilitate the process.

Sveinn added that the main challenge has been getting people to the airport. News outlets such as the BBC have reported that some Afghans who were set to leave the country have “abandoned their plans for now…nervous after the Taliban said they didn’t want Afghanistan’s people to leave.” Thus far, however, Sveinn said that he is not aware of any Afghans who have been invited to come to Iceland deciding not to do so out of fear for their safety.

Sveinn also noted that while the current number of Afghans who are assumed to be coming to Iceland is around 120, this figure, which was arranged in collaboration with NATO, is by no means fixed. There are no specific names or ID numbers attached to that figure, he explained. “That’s just a reference number.”