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Fridrik Thor Fridriksson • Director

Icelandic adventures


- The director of Children of Nature, nominated for an Oscar in 1991, talks about his colleagues and his country's film industry

Fridrik Thor Fridriksson • Director

Director, producer and screenwriter, Fridrik Thor Fridriksson is a leading figure in the Icelandic film industry. Born in Reykjavik in 1953, Fridriksson directed his first film in the early ‘80s. He was heavily influenced by American cinema, but his biggest role model was Japan’s Akira Kurosawa. In 1987 Fridriksson founded the Icelandic Film Corporation, which went on to become the country’s most important film producer, and its numerous partners include Zentropa and Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Productions. In 1991 Fridriksson’s Children of Nature was nominated for a best foreign film Oscar.
Fridriksson, who is known for his ironic vision, has always been very proud of his links to Iceland’s cultural heritage, and he is extremely popular with domestic audiences. In 2000, over half the entire population of Iceland had seen his Angels of the Universe in a cinema. His latest film, Falcons, is an unusual Scandinavian road movie starring a dark and down-to-earth Keith Carradine opposite Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir’s luminous innocence. The Icelandic director talks to about his films and his country’s film industry.
Talk us through your Icelandic film adventure
"In 1978 I founded the Rejkjavik Film Festival. That same year the Cinema Foundation was also set up and we began to make films. Now we produce around 7 a year. "

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How many screens does Iceland have?
"Around 50, more than half of which are in Reykjavik. In terms of programming, the situation is similar to that of many other countries: the overwhelming majority of films are American. However, we do have a 10 per cent share of the domestic market. "

And how many directors are there?
"About thirty, but most of them have made just one feature. Most of their work consists of short or TV films. "
Björk starred in your directorial debut...
“In 1982. She was 14 and she also featured on the posters. It was a documentary about the rock scene in Reykjavik.”

How come you never worked together again?
“We are friends. The screenplay of Falcons was for her but she has not made a film since Dancer in the Dark.”

Did you cast Keith Carradine, an American, because he fitted in with the story or was he the production’s choice?
“The film contains only the things I needed. I would never do something just for money or something like that, for example, I would not have cast Tom Cruise. Carradine is in the film because I was looking for an American actor who was also a quiet and talented man. “

Your Devil’s Island, Falcons and even 101 Reykjavik by Baltasar Kormàkur all tell a similar story of juvenile unease in Iceland...
“Frustration is rife: politics are corrupt and our young people get angry very easily. But Iceland is a small country: it is not unusual to find the Minister for Culture sitting at the next table in a restaurant and it’s quite normal to say hello. Ours is a small community which is getting more and more impersonal with time. Something is simmering and eventually it will boil over.”

What are the Icelandic film community’s guidelines?
"In 1968 some people went abroad to study film directing and when they returned, they transformed Iceland’s literary heritage into films. Some, like Ágúst Gudmundsson, are still making films (he directed his first major feature,The Seagull’s Laughter, in 2001). I came to the forefront of attention when I was nominated for an Oscar. That really changed things because with the money I got, I was able to build a real film studio and I began producing films ranging from Wall Paper by Julius Kemp to Óskar Jónasson’s The Silent Magician. There are plenty of talented newcomers in Iceland, like Dagur Kàri whose directorial debut, Nói albínói (Nói The Albino) won numerous international awards. Then there is Kristín Jóhannesdóttir who directed Ass in Heaven. Although she has only made two films, I consider her to be one of Iceland’s foremost film directors.”

Are your colleagues full or part-time directors?
“Most of us do nothing else. Some make adverts, I don’t, or work for television.”

All in Iceland?
“Yes, and occasionally in Scandinavia. Film attendance in Iceland is very high, we enjoy the support of Icelandic audiences. We also work on all kinds of co-productions, especially with Germany, Scandinavia and now also with Canada with whom we have a joint venture agreement. We work less frequently with the French. The Eurimages Fund was very useful to us: without their support we would never have been able to make the films we did.”

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