Doccers in Iceland

Doccers in Iceland

The second edition of Icelandic fest Icedocs kicks off next week (15-19 July) on an island where lockdown isn’t so restrictive. Festival co-founder Ingibjörg Halldórsdóttir tells Business Doc Europe what to expect.T


When asked the hyperbolic questions as to why it felt ‘essential’ to launch the IceDocs international festival in 2019, Ingibjörg Halldórsdóttir answers with characteristic and refreshing Icelandic directness.


“There is nothing in the world that is absolutely 100% necessary,” she responds. “It was a mixture of madness and idealism, but basically the reason was that we wanted to have a documentary event to connect with the international documentary world more than there is right now. We also wanted to do something for the local community in Akranes.”


Akranes, with a population of 7000, is a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik. Last year’s pre-Covid festival drew both local audiences and culture vultures from the Icelandic capital, who were keen to see an ostensibly international programme accompanied by approximately 30 international guests. “These guests created a strong vibe around the festival, and made the local audiences curious. Who are these people? What are they doing? Where are they going? Should I follow or not?”


This year there will be no international guests, but the show will go on with a live programme of 22 top international docs, which have been presented and feted at recent leading festivals. These include the likes of Radu Ciorniciuc’s Acasa, My Home, Aurélia Rouvier, Seamus Haley’s Banksy: Most WantedLessons of Love (Małgorzata Goliszewska, Katarzyna Mateja) and the Norwegian Self Portrait, directed by Katja Hogset, Margreth Olin and Espen Wallin.


These free screenings will be accompanied by a series of associated events designed to bind audiences to the festival, and include a hike up a mountain, concerts in the local lighthouse, yoga sessions on the beach and a pub quiz. 


“Basically we want to keep the audience satisfied and stimulated, but also enable them to be participants in the whole festival, and not just to drop in for single screenings,” says Halldórsdóttir. “Basically to let them feel that the festival is for them.” Gatherings of up to 500 are allowed on the island, but the bars, regretfully, must shut at 11pm, which “makes for a more compact programme this year.”


What is missing from the programme is Icelandic films, which are generally reserved each year for Iceland’s Skjaldborg doc festival (postponed from May due to the pandemic, and also located far from the Icelandic capital). “We have the international aspect and they (Skjaldborg fest) are almost solely domestic,” says Halldórsdóttir.


That said, Halldórsdóttir would not be averse to screening Icelandic films which, she says, “can offer a very unique view of both us and the world. We live on an island and we are quite isolated, so our world view is sometimes quite different, which can be a negative, but can also be a quality.” She singles out The Last Autumn (2019, Yrsa Roca Fannberg) for praise, underling the “authenticity” of the filmmaker’s voice and vision, and telling of a shepherd who is hanging up his crook for the last time.


The team programmed a handful in 2019 but timing complexities thrown up by Covid determined that the 2020 festival offer would comprise only of films made beyond Icelandic borders. 


This year, Halldórsdóttir was looking to promote Iceland and its documentary industry to the international community and to promote collaboration between local and international filmmakers. Covid-19 may have intervened but there will still be a B2B Baltic to Black Sea Doc Network presentation to Icelandic filmmakers next week by the organisation’s Alex Shiriaieff (in person).


“Akranes is a quiet environment so actually a very good place for networking,” Halldórsdóttir underlines. “So during the third edition in 2021 we will be able to embrace the whole international dimension much more, with workshops and a strong filmmaker-oriented programme.”