Vesturport to Produce TV Show on President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir

Vigdís FInnbogadóttir's first inauguration as president

The government has approved an ISK 5 million [$36,000 / €34,000] grant for the production of a TV show revolving around the life of former President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir. The show will comprise four episodes and will be aired on RÚV.

Nína Dögg to play Vigdís

At a meeting yesterday morning, the government approved the proposal of Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Minister of Culture and Business Affairs Lilja Alfreðsdóttir to greenlight a grant of ISK 5 million [$36,000 / €34,000] to the theatre group Vesturport for the production of a television show about former President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir.

The show, which will comprise four episodes, will cover Vigdís’ life from her teenage years until she became the first female democratically elected head of state. According to an announcement on the government’s website, Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir will play the role of Vigdís in the series, which will be directed by Björn Hlynur Haraldsson and Tinna Hrafnsdóttir. The show will be aired on RÚV and other Nordic national television stations.

Vesturport produced the acclaimed Blackport series, which aired on RÚV in 2021.

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 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.

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir’s Formative Years Subject of New Series

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir

Icelandic director Baldvin Z (Lof mér að falla, Vonarstræti) is working on a four-part series on the life of Iceland’s first female President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, RÚV reports. Vigdís was the first woman to be democratically elected as a Head of State in the world and to this day remains the longest-serving elected female head of state of any country.

The series is to focus on the period of Vigdís’ life from her teenage years until she became President of Iceland in 1980. The screenplay was written by three women: Björg Magnúsdóttir, Jana María Guðmundsdóttir, and Ágústa Ólafsdóttir, who have put years of research into the project. Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir (Trapped) has been cast as adult Vigdís in the series, but the role of teenage Vigdís is yet to be filled. Vigdís, who turned 90 last year, reportedly had a hand in casting Nina Dögg to play herself and has been consulting with the actress on the role.

The series is expected to go into production at the end of this year or in early 2022.

Icelandic Show “The Minister” to Be Streamed Internationally

Rights to Icelandic show The Minister, starring Ólafur Darri Ólafsson of Trapped fame, have been acquired by streaming platforms and television broadcasters across Europe, North America, and Australia, Variety reports. The show, which premiered in Iceland on September 20, has been nominated for the Venice TV Awards and is in the running for the Prix Europa.

The Minister (Ráðherrann in Icelandic) is an eight-part series that follows populist Prime Minister Benedikt Ríkarðsson (Ólafur Darri) as his mental illness grows and his colleagues try to keep it a secret from the nation. The show featured a cameo by Ben Stiller, who appeared in a video to express his opposition to whaling in Iceland.

Icelandic media outlet DV interviewed Iceland’s ministers about the show. “I found Ólafur Darri so sincere and convincing – that he could clearly go into politics!” stated Minister of Education and Culture Lilja Alfreðsdóttir.

Crime Novelist Ragnar Jónasson Tops Bestseller List in Germany

Ragnar Jónasson

Mistur (German title Nebel; English title The Mist) by Icelandic crime novelist Ragnar Jónasson is currently #1 on Der Spiegel‘s bestseller list in Germany. This is the first time that an Icelandic author has topped this list.

Mistur is the final instalment in Ragnar’s trilogy starring policewoman Hulda Hermannsdóttir. In a somewhat unconventional move, German publisher btb Verlag released all three books in the trilogy—Dimma (German title Dunkel; English titleThe Darkness), Drungi (German title Insel; English title The Island), and Mistur—in rapid succession this year. The first and second instalments came out in May and July respectively. This seems to have been a good bet: Dimma reached number two on Der Spiegel‘s list and all three books were ranked in the top ten last week, a relatively unheard-of coup.

Ragnar’s books have sold close to 1.5 million copies worldwide and been published in 27 languages in 40 countries. He can easily claim to be one of Europe’s most popular authors right now and is on track to becoming a household name in the US, too. American TV giant CBS is in the process of turning The Darkness into an eight-part series, which will be produced in Iceland with support from Truenorth Productions, which recently coproduced Netflix’s first original Icelandic series, The Valhalla Murders.

Trapped Season 3: Filming Begins in North Iceland

Ófærð (Trapped)

Filming of the third season of Icelandic crime drama Trapped (Ófærð) is scheduled to begin shortly in Siglufjörður, North Iceland, reports. Between 60 and 80 people will be working on the shoot, which is to take place between September 24 and October 9. Both season one and two of the popular show were filmed in part in Siglufjörður.

All cast and crew will be staying at hotels and guesthouses in the town of 1,174. One scene will be filmed at the Siglufjörður swimming pool, which will be closed to the public for the duration of filming. The gym and sports facilities at the same location will remain open.

Iceland’s largely successful response to COVID-19 has made it possible for many large-scale film projects to go ahead as planned this year. Regulations have been put in place, however, to minimise the risk of transmission. Presently, production companies in Iceland must apply for a special filming permit that allows actors to be exempted from distancing rules. A COVID safety supervisor must be on set at all times, and makeup and costuming staff are required to wear masks, as is the film crew in spaces where distancing cannot be maintained. Cast and crew will all have their temperature taken daily when arriving on set.

The Trapped team has been working on the show’s third season since as early as December 2018.

Will Smith Filming Secret Project in Iceland

Will Smith is currently in Iceland to film a TV series, RÚV reports, although information about precisely what show he’s working on is being kept tightly under wraps. All that is currently known is that the Academy Award-nominated star—known for roles in AliMen in Black, Bad Boys, and I Am Legend among dozens of others—has been spotted in the north of the country.

Icelandic production company Truenorth, which co-produced the Netflix series The Valhalla Murders, is assisting on the project, although again, it’s unclear in what capacity.

The film crew has been abiding by strict quarantine rules in order to maintain a safe set. New guidelines that go into effect tomorrow specifically allow for contact in stage rehearsals, music performances, and filmmaking.

Icelandic Composer of Chernobyl Nominated for Emmy

Hildur Guðnadóttir

Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir has been nominated for a 2019 Emmy Award for her original music for the TV series Chernobyl. Hildur’s atmospheric soundscape, sculpted from live recordings made inside the nuclear power plant where the show was filmed, has been praised for how its weaves seamlessly into the action of the series.

HBO production Chernobyl is a historical drama miniseries which centres around the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of April 1986. To write the score, Hildur visited the shooting location, a nuclear power plant in Lithuania, and made live recordings of its atmospheric sounds. “I wanted to explore what a nuclear disaster sounds like – to go into the plant, put on the gear, walk through the huge spaces, smell how it smells,” she told Iceland Review in a recent interview. Alongside sound engineer Chris Watson and score producer Sam Slater, Hildur observed and recorded the plant’s hums, echoes, and thuds, produced by everything from dosimeters to doors.

It’s these recordings that were moulded into the score for Chernobyl in the place of traditional instruments. “Often film music is boosting the emotion on the screen,” Hildur explains. “But because the events at Chernobyl were so devastating in themselves, I found it was really important that I wasn’t exaggerating anything with thriller music or dramatic strings, I wanted to approach the music very honestly.”

Hildur is featured in the August-September issue of Iceland Review magazine, where she talks about her work on Chernobyl as well as upcoming Hollywood film Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix. Subscribe to Iceland Review here.

Netflix to Co-Produce Its First Icelandic Series

Netflix will be co-producing its first Icelandic TV series, The Valhalla Murders, RÚV reports. Variety confirms that the streaming giant will be investing €5.5 million [$6.3 million] in the eight-part series, which is set to premier Christmas 2019 on RÚV.

The story will center around Arnar, a Copenhagen-based police profiler who returns to Iceland to investigate his home country’s first serial killer case. At first, the murders don’t seem to be related, but then Arnar and local cop Kata discover that they are all connected to a now-closed home for boys called Valhalla, and the horrendous crimes that took place there 35 years before.

The series—which will be in Icelandic, despite its English title—has been coauthored by a talented group of writers: Margrét Örnólfsdóttir (Trapped 2 and Prisoners), Ottó Geir Borg (I Remember You), Mikael Torfason (Made in Iceland) and crime author Óttar M. Norðfjörð. Björn Thors (Prisoners; Paris of the North) will star as Arnar and Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir (Prisoners; Trapped) as Kata.

“This is a historic contract with Netflix” said Magnús Geir Þórðarson, RÚV’s director general. “This fascinating project in general is a big result for our more ambitious and focused work at RÚV aimed at massively increasing the selection, distribution, and above all else, the quality of Icelandic TV material.”