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.

Daði Einarsson Wins BAFTA Award

The Witcher / Twitter

Icelander Daði Einarsson has won a BAFTA award for Special, Visual, and Graphic Effects in the Netflix show The Witcher. Daði won the award alongside his colleagues Gavin Round, Aleksander Pejic, Oliver Cubbage, Stefano Pepin, and Jet Omoshebi. The Witcher also won in the category of Make-up and Hair Design at the annual awards last night, held by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

Daði is a visual effects supervisor known for his work on the films Everest (2015), Gravity (2013) and Adrift (2018). He was the executive visual effects supervisor for ten episodes of Trapped between 2015-2016. His credits also include two Harry Potter movies, where he worked as an animator and visual effects supervisor.

Daði is not the first Icelander to win a BAFTA award. Musicians Ólafur Arnalds and Hildur Guðnadóttir have both won BAFTAs, for their composing in the TV series Broadchurch and the film Joker, respectively.

Icelandic Series Katla Premieres on Netflix Today

Katla Netflix/Lilja Jónsdóttir

Just ten years ago it was unthinkable that a foreign company as big as Netflix would be interested in producing an Icelandic TV series for the global market, according to director Baltasar Kormákur. Icelandic series Katla, co-written and co-directed by Baltasar, premieres on the streaming platform today. The fictional drama takes place in Vík í Mýrdal, South Iceland, during a volcanic eruption so intense it starts melting a glacier from which “mysterious elements” start to emerge “with consequences no one could ever have foreseen.”

Katla is the first Icelandic television series produced by Netflix in collaboration with Reykjavík Studios. Containing ten episodes, the series was written by Baltasar along with Sigurjón Kjartansson, Davíð Már Stefánsson and Lilja Sigurðardóttir. Lilja and Baltasar also directed the series alongside Börkur Sigþórsson.

“It’s an idea I got quite a long time ago and was playing around with,” Baltasar told RÚV. “What if the glaciers would melt and we have no idea what’s under them. Then it developed. I knew it wouldn’t be easy because it’s heavy in production.” Then Baltasar received a call from Netflix and the idea suddenly became a real possibility.

Baltasar describes Katla as a combination of folktale, science fiction, and psychological “noir mystery,” a form he says provided lots of freedom. “We stuck to a certain realism in terms of what the situation would be like after one year of a volcanic eruption. But then we let go of the reins and it was as if the team filled with energy, it was a lot of fun.”

Netflix Gives First Glimpses of Upcoming Icelandic Series Katla

Katla Netflix/Lilja Jónsdóttir

Netflix has released the first photographs from the upcoming series Katla, its first-ever original series from Iceland. Created and directed by the award-winning Baltasar Kormákur (Trapped, Everest), the eight-part drama takes place in Vík, South Iceland, following a violent eruption of the volcano Katla.

“One year after the outbreak of a violent eruption of the subglacial volcano Katla, the peace and tranquility in the small town of Vík has been dramatically disturbed with the eruption still active,” a Netflix plot summary of the series reads. “The ice near the volcano has been melting, the area has been evacuated and only a few remaining people manage to provide the necessary community service in the village, which is now only accessible by crossing the Markarfljót river. The grand area has turned out to be somewhat apocalyptic and Vík is declared a danger zone. Mysterious elements, that have been deeply frozen into the glacier from prehistoric times, start to emerge from the melting ice with consequences no one could ever have foreseen.”

Katla Netflix/Lilja Jónsdóttir
Netflix/Lilja Jónsdóttir.

Katla stars Guðrún Ýr Eyfjörð, better known as the musician GDRN, Íris Tanja Flygenring, Ingvar Sigurðsson, Þorsteinn Bachmann, Sólveig Arnarsdóttir, and Swedish actors Aliette Opheim and Valter Skarsgård. Filming began early last year but had to be suspended due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It resumed later in the year with a reduced crew and social distancing precautions.

Katla Netflix/Lilja Jónsdóttir
Netflix/Lilja Jónsdóttir. Director Baltasar Kormákur (left) and starring actress Guðrún Ýr Eyfjörð on set.

Though the premise of Katla is fictional, it’s not at all far-fetched that an eruption from the volcano could have catastrophic consequences. A Katla eruption in the year 822 AD was likely responsible for widespread famine, plague, and freezing temperatures across Europe. An eruption at nearby Laki in 1783 affected the climate across the northern hemisphere for a year, and is now believed to have been a catalyst for the French revolution.

Katla Netflix/Lilja Jónsdóttir
Netflix/Lilja Jónsdóttir. Ingvar E. Sigurðsson of Trapped fame is also in the series.

Icelandic Comedian Ari Eldjárn Releases Netflix Special

Stand-up comedian Ari Eldjárn

Pardon My Icelandic is the title of comedian Ari Eldjárn’s Netflix special, which premiered yesterday, December 2. Ari referred to the special as a dream come true. In the programme, Ari pokes fun at Iceland and its claims of greatness “per capita,” as well as making light of the differences between Icelanders and their Nordic neighbours.

Comedian Ari Eldjárn, 39, has been performing standup for some 11 years. He has worked as a writer on Icelandic TV programmes and has performed in the UK and Australia.

Iceland Review interviewed Ari Eldjárn about his career in comedy and translating jokes between cultures.

Baltasar Resumes Filming of ‘Supernatural Volcano Drama’

Baltasar Kormákur is set to resume filming his eight-part Netflix series Katla, RÚV reports. Described as a “supernatural volcano drama,” the series stars Guðrún Ýr Eyfjörð, better known as the musician GDRN, Íris Tanja Flygenring, Ingvar Sigurðsson, Þorsteinn Bachmann, Sólveig Arnarsdóttir, and Swedish actors Aliette Opheim and Valter Skarsgård. The Everest director is releasing the series through his own production company, RVK Studios.

Katla follows the lives of the residents of Vík, on the south coast of Iceland, a year after the Katla volcano erupts. As a glacier near the volcano begins to melt, many in the village are forced to evacuate, while the stalwarts who remain try to keep the village, which has largely become a ghost town, alive. The melting glacier uncovers long-hidden secrets, however, all of which have unexpected consequences on the characters.

According to a recent interview with Deadline, Baltasar began working on the series before the COVID-19 pandemic reached the Nordic countries and was able to complete a few weeks of filming before having to put the production on hold. He anticipates needing three additional weeks to complete filming, which will conclude in July.

The production has been able to resume with a reduced crew and social distancing precautions. The sheer size of RVK Studios is a particular boon in circumstances such as these; at 45,200 square feet, it’s one of the biggest studios in Europe and is located in an isolated area. “So, we could control very easily, or actually very clearly, the number of people in the space,” Baltasar explained to the film industry publication. “I came up with kind of a colour-coded spacing system so that people wearing the same colours know which group they are and they are only allowed in certain spaces. There will never be more than 20 people with the same colour. This way, we could segregate the studio down to four main spaces and we minimised the crew and try to keep the two-metre distance.”

The cast and crew were also all tested for the virus before filming resumed, the set and equipment are regularly sanitised, and everyone’s temperatures are checked every morning. Baltasar said he believes his cast and crew are “honestly…more safe on that set than anywhere else. I live with four children so we vary from six to eight at home and you can’t keep them in the house. I think that because of the quarantine and the measures we did on set, it actually became a very safe spot.”

Asked how filming amidst the coronavirus crisis compares with other challenges that he’s faced on previous projects, Baltasar told Deadline that “It is in some way very similar. When I was making Everest, I remember saying, let’s bow our head to the mountain and accept what it gives you. You can’t fight nature, you have to respect it and work with it, unafraid. And the same goes with the ocean in Adrift and The Deep. And now with the virus.”

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.’”

Netflix “Responds” to Daði Freyr Conspiracy Theories

Eurovision

“We will not comment on rumour or speculation,” Netflix UK & Ireland tweeted yesterday, in response to a conspiracy theory claiming that Netflix is secretly championing Iceland’s Eurovision 2020 entry to promote the streaming service’s upcoming Eurovision film.

Eurovision the movie

As reported last summer, Iceland will play a leading role in Netflix’s upcoming Eurovision film, starring American comedian Will Ferrell and Canadian actress Rachel McAdams, both of whom will portray Icelanders in the movie (i.e. Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdottir). Filming commenced last year in the UK and in Húsavík in North Iceland. The film is slated to be released in 2020.

Suspiciously popular?

In the lead up to Iceland’s national selection contest Söngvakeppnin, Daði Freyr and Gagnamagnið’s song Think About Things went viral following retweets from UK Eurovision team member Rylan Clark-Neal, royal wedding-dress designer David Emanuel, and Gladiator star Russell Crowe. Last Saturday, Daði Freyr and Gagnamagnið were officially selected as Iceland’s 2020 Eurovision entry.

In light of the attention the song has received, in addition to the fact that Netflix signed a deal with Icelandic broadcaster RÚV to strengthen their position in the Icelandic market, some have begun speculating whether Netflix is behind Daði’s popularity (in an effort to drum up attention for the movie).

A spoof promotional schedule

This Monday, Twitter-user @jrawson posted a spoof promotional schedule for the film from Netflix, stating that the leak was “absolutely huge” and that it “explained everything.” The faux schedule includes having celebrities like Russell Crowe tweet about the song, as well as having Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announce that they are pregnant with a boy who will be called “Daði.”

Netflix UK & Ireland responded to the tweet yesterday, saying that it would not “comment on rumour or speculation.”

Predicted to win

As reported yesterday, Eurovision bookies are predicting success for Daði Freyr at the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest; Think About Things currently tops the winner prediction charts.

Icelandic MP Unhappy With Appearance in Panama Papers Film

Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson.

Being wrongfully implicated in the Panama Papers scandal in a recently-released Netflix film has been “painful and unbearable” according to Progressive Party Chairman Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson. A picture of the MP appears in the film The Laundromat, which was released on Netflix this past weekend, in connection with the Panama Papers. Sigurður Ingi himself did not appear in the Panama Papers. Then-Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð, however, did, and Sigurður Ingi took over as Prime Minister following Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson’s resignation in the wake of the scandal.

According to Vísir, The Laundromat features a screenshot of a Time article which reports that Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson has resigned due to his name appearing in the Panama Papers. The article’s headline states that Sigurður Ingi has taken over the position and a picture of him appears with the article. No picture of Sigmundur Davíð appears in the film.

In a Facebook post about his unexpected appearance, Sigurður Ingi expresses his disappointment that his picture appears amid a discussion of “corrupt national leaders. As is undoubtedly fresh in people’s memory, the course of events was such that when then-Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð’s assets came to light in Mossack Fonseca’s tax havens, he was forced to resign. These were difficult times in Icelandic politics and Icelanders full of righteous anger and therefore a great challenge to sit in the Prime Minister’s chair,” Sigurður Ingi wrote. “Although I find it painful and unbearable to be connected to this corruption case in The Laundromat, the film will hardly be changed because of that.”

The MP thanked those who had written to him about the film, stating that some had even written to Netflix of their own accord to complain about Sigurður Ingi’s misrepresentation in the film.

Ferrell’s Eurovision Film Prompts Mayor’s Endearing Statement

Filming of the upcoming Netflix comedy Eurovision is currently underway in Húsavík in North Iceland. The film – which is directed by David Dobkin, and written by Andrew Steele and Will Ferrell – stars Rachel McAdams, Pierce Brosnan, Demi Lovato, and Will Ferrell himself. The film follows Icelanders Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdottir, who are chosen to represent their nation at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Prior to the filming, Kristján Þór Magnússon, Mayor of Húsavík, released a statement on the municipality of Norðurþing’s website, detailing the extent of the preparations and warning of possible disturbances to life in town. With reference to “the principles” of filmmaking, Magnússon’s statement – which is alternately endearing and inspirational – asks citizens to respect the crew’s privacy on set:

“… The excitement in the run-up to the project’s filming has mounted over the past few weeks, and it is understandable that many are equal parts thrilled and curious about the film. Everyone involved in the film’s production is exceedingly grateful to the positive outlook the inhabitants of Húsavík have adopted toward it.

During the production of a large-scale film project such as this, it is important that we adhere to the rules applicable on and around the set. The production company, the actors, and other affiliated parties expect much of us. On behalf of the municipality, I would like to request that we demonstrate our trustworthiness to our fine guests; that we respect the privacy of the film’s staff and actors; and that we demonstrate our capability of taking on additional projects, by not violating the principles of the film-making business. Those principles are, in their most basic form, the following:

  • Absolutely no photographs are to be taken of the actors or other on-set paraphernalia and published on social media.
  • No drones are to be operated over or around the set during filming.
  • The temporarily closing of roads during production is to be met with patience and understanding.

A crew of approximately 250 people will arrive in Húsavík to film between Friday, October 11th, and Monday, October 14th. During that time, a certain perturbation of town-life is unavoidable.

Finally, I hope we enjoy this fun project together, and may it go down, through our collevtive efforts, as one of the most fantastic events in the history of Húsavík. Let us receive the crew with open arms, let us respect their privacy, and let us throw a real Eurovision party come next spring!

On behalf of Norðurþing,

Kristján Þór Magnússon”

The full statement is accessible here (in Icelandic).