Ljósbrot to Open Cannes Film Festival Category

Cannes Film Festival

Ljósbrot, the forthcoming film from director Rúnar Rúnarsson, will be the opening film of the Un Certain Regard category at the Cannes Film Festival this year.

This will be the sixth festival in a row that an Icelandic film is part of official selection at Cannes, Klapptré reports.

Festival success

Ljósbrot is Rúnar’s fourth feature film. His first feature, Eldfjall (Volcano), was released in 2011 and was presented in the Director’s Fortnight category at Cannes. The film received 17 international awards at film festivals. His second feature, Þrestir (Sparrows), came out in 2015 and won the main prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival. His third feature from 2019, Bergmál (Echo), was selected for the Cannes Atelier screenwriting workshop and was premiered at the Locarno Film Festival. Rúnar has also had success with short films.

Ljósbrot takes place on a lovely spring day and follows Una, whose live changes in a moment, kicking off an emotional rollercoaster ride. It stars Elín Hall, Mikael Kaaber, Katla Njálsdóttir, Gunnar Hrafn Kristjánsson, Ágúst Wigum and Baldur Einarsson. Rúnar directs, writes the screenplay, and produces along with Heather Millard.

Iceland at Cannes

Several Icelandic films have been selected for the Cannes Film Festival before, both feature films and shorts, and for the festival’s independent sections, such as Director’s Fortnight and Critic’s Week.

1954: Hálendi Íslands / Magnús Jóhannsson (In Competition)
1984: Atómstöðin / Þorsteinn Jónsson (Director’s Fortnight)
1992: Ingaló / Ásdís Thoroddsen (Critics’ Week)
1992: Ævintýri á okkar tímum / Inga Lísa Middleton (Short Films)
1993: Sódóma Reykjavík / Óskar Jónasson (Un Certain Regard)
2003: Stormviðri / Sólveig Anspach (Un Certain Regard)
2005: Voksne mennesker / Dagur Kári (Un Certain Regard)
2008: Smáfuglar / Rúnar Rúnarsson (Short Films)
2009: Anna / Rúnar Rúnarsson (Director’s Fortnight)
2011: Eldfjall / Rúnar Rúnarsson (Director’s Fortnight)
2013: Hvalfjörður / Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson (Short Films)
2015: Hrútar / Grímur Hákonarson (Un Certain Regard)
2016: Sundáhrifin / Sólveig Anspach (Director’s Fortnight)
2018: Kona fer í stríð / Benedikt Erlingsson (Critics’ Week)
2019: Hvítur, hvítur dagur / Hlynur Pálmason (Critics’ Week)
2021: Dýrið / Valdimar Jóhannsson (Un Certain Regard)
2022: Volaða land / Hlynur Pálmason (Un Certain Regard)
2023: Fár / Gunnur Martinsdóttir Schlüter (Short Films)
2024: Ljósbrot / Rúnar Rúnarsson (Director’s Fortnight)

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Icelandic Film Quake Gets International Theatrical Release

Icelandic writer-director Tinna Hrafnsdóttir’s film Quake will have a theatrical release in North America, Sweden, and the UK, Variety reports. The psychological drama is Tinna’s first feature-length film as a director; as an actor, she takes a supporting role in Quake, but has previously had starring roles in the popular TV series The Valhalla Murders and The Minister.

“Quake” follows Saga (Anita Briem), a single mother in her late thirties, who has a grand mal seizure while walking in a public park with her six-year-old son. The event results in her total memory loss and afraid of being declared an unfit mother, Saga attempts to conceal her precarious state of mind while also dealing with suddenly surfacing memories of her childhood, which she’s long repressed. The film is an adaptation of the Icelandic Literary Prize-nominated novel Stjóri skjálfi by Auður Jónsdóttir, which was recently published by Dottir Press in the US under the title Quake (translated by Meg Matich).

The film, which premiered in Iceland in March and was well-received at the Santa Barbara film festival the same month, sold to Juno Films in North America and the UK and Njuta Films in Sweden. Both companies are planning for a late 2022 release. Quake will also be presented at the upcoming Cannes Marché du Film.

Arctic Fox Gets Starring Role in New Netflix Series

Iceland’s Arctic fox has a starring role in the upcoming Netflix series “Wild Babies,” RÚV reports.

Narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, the eight-part series explores the trials and tribulations of baby animals such as elephants, cuckoos, pangolins, seal pups, mongeese, and macaques in the beginning of their lives.

Arctic fox cub Silver is followed in episode 7, “Hostile Homes,” which also features baby penguins and adolescent lions. The episode, which was shot in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in the Westfjords, includes the first-ever footage of Arctic foxes swimming. This is rather remarkable, as the animals famously hate getting wet. However, by overcoming their aversion to immersion, Arctic fox parents are able to catch more prey and thereby increase the chances of their cubs surviving. The episode also shows the cubs learning to swim themselves and hunting for the first time.

The footage for the episode was taken over July and August last year, when the film crew accompanied scientists from the Icelandic Institute of Natural History on their field visits to Hornstrandir. Mammalian biologist Ester Rut Unnsteinsdóttir chose appropriate locations for filming, ensuring that the foxes were respected and undisturbed by the presence of the crew for the duration of the shoot.

“Wild Babies” is on Netflix now.

Verbúðin Wins Big at Göteborg Film Festival

Icelandic TV series Verbúðin (English title: Blackport) won the 2022 Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize at the Göteborg Film Festival this week, RÚV reports. The award is given for “outstanding writing of a Nordic drama series” and is accompanied by a prize of NOK 200,000 [ISK 2.85 million; $22,824]. This year’s nominees included Countrymen (Norway; written by Izer Aliu, Anne Bjørnstad), Transport (Finland; written by Auli Mantila), The Shift (Denmark; written by Lone Scherfig), and Vi i villa (Sweden; written by Tove Eriksen Hillblom).

Set in the Westfjords in the 1980s, the story follows a married couple, Harpa and Grimur, as they build a small fishing empire along with their childhood friends. But with the introduction of a new quota system in the country, where the fishing grounds are privatised, the struggle for power results in a feud of jealousy, greed and betrayal.

Hailed as the buzziest TV series to come out of Iceland since Trapped, Verbúðin has indeed already garnered a great deal of international interest, despite the fact that it has not yet been widely broadcast for the international public. Vesturport produced the show for RÚV in Iceland and Arte France, and has production backing from the UK’s Turbine Studios, the Nordic 12 TV Alliance and the Nordisk Film & TV Fond. Prior to its success at Göteborg, it won the Series Mania Award at the Berlinale Co-Pro Series pitching event in 2018 and was also a hit at the Spanish Serielizados TV festival last fall.

Verbúðin has also been extremely popular with audiences at home—80% audience approval according to some figures. But the positive foreign reception of this particularly Icelandic story has been particularly surprising for the creators, says Mikael Torfason, who co-wrote the script with two members of the Vesturport theatre and film company who also star in the series: Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir (The Vallhalla Murders, Trapped), Björn Hlynur Haraldsson (Trapped, The Witcher), and Gísli Örn Garðarsson (Ragnarok, Prisoners). “This is maybe not something you’d expect. The most popular material has usually been crime dramas.”

 

 

Netflix Continues Production in Iceland, Crediting Strong COVID Response

Vatnajökull Grímsfjall Grímsvötn Bárðarbunga Kverkfjöll Jöklar Jökull Vísindi

With people quarantined around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, viewership on streaming services such as Netflix has surged, even as production on new content has basically come to a halt. Even so, Netflix is currently in production in both South Korea and Iceland, thanks to those countries’ strong response in containing and tracking the novel coronavirus. This was among the information shared as part of the streaming giant’s first-quarter earnings report and a subsequent call with company executives.

“When it comes to production, almost all filming has now been stopped globally, with the exception of a few countries like Korea [sic] and Iceland,” Netflix content chief Theodore A. Sarandos explained. Both South Korea and Iceland have been “very aggressive about testing and tracking early,” he continued, which he says “lays out a good framework for future rollouts” in other parts of the world.

While Sarandos did not indicate specific productions that are underway in either country, previous Netflix shows and/or co-productions that have been filmed in Iceland include Sense8 and The Valhalla Murders.

Extensive testing in a country or state is a prerequisite for Netflix relaunching production efforts, Sarandos noted – “We have to be able to look our employees and cast and crew in the eyes and say, ‘This is a safe place to work.’”

Sambíó Invites Bíó Paradís to Kringlan

The Sambíó theatre chain has invited the Bíó Paradís cinema to continue its operations in its facilities in the Kringlan shopping mall, Vísir reports. The invitation comes following the announcement this week that the popular downtown cinema, known for programming award-winning foreign movies and hosting a variety of film festivals, will be forced to close on April 30 due to a rent increase. 

A press release issued by representatives of Sambíó put forth the idea that Bíó Paradís could potentially be given a few of the theatres in its Kringlan location. “Kringlan has a very central location and very good services,” read the statement. “Sambíó Kringlan is a very popular theatre for older cinema-goers who want to see high-quality films. Oscar-winning films have been very popular at Kringlan, along with live screenings of performances staged by the Metropolitan Opera. The theatre is also popular with families.” A collaboration with Bíó Paradís would, therefore, make sense for Sambíó’s broad audience, explains the press release.

Bíó Paradís was opened in the fall of 2010, taking over from movie theatre Regnboginn. It has been an important venue for the Icelandic film community ever since. The theatre’s landlords, former executives of the investment fund GAMMA, have decided to nearly triple its rent in order to bring the space in better alignment with its market value.

Bío Paradís ‘vital to daily life and culture in downtown Reykjavík’

Calls for the government to support the downtown institution have poured in since the announcement of its imminent closure was made. A Stundin poll asking readers to vote on whether they support government funding for the cinema has seen high support, with 86% of its 6,133 respondents saying they “strongly support” government funding and 5% saying that they “support” it. 

On Friday, the Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland issued a statement urging the City of Reykjavík to take whatever measures necessary to ensure the continued operations of the theatre, which they consider “vital to daily life and culture in downtown Reykjavík.” In its statement, the Agency noted that a 2019 conservation assessment of the cinema’s space at Hverfisgata 54 found that it had average to high conservation value due to its cultural history and cultural and educational programming.  

“…[I]t is the only operating cinema left in downtown Reykjavík,” continued the Agency statement. “And thus is a living testimony to this aspect of popular culture and entertainment in Reykjavík. The operation of the ground-floor cinema adds a lot to street life and atmosphere on Hverfisgata.”

Bíó Paradís CEO Hrönn Sveinsdóttir says the cinema has appealed to the City of Reykjavík and the government for support, but talks are still ongoing.