“My favourite moment at Skjaldborg was at an after party,” Gunnar Þorri Pétursson shares on the film festival’s website. “It was deep into the night and silence was descending, but then Huldar Breiðfjörð [Icelandic novelist and filmmaker] says: ‘He has started the show.’ And we all turn around and see that the sun is coming up again.”

At the end of May, for the sixth year in a row, the Skjaldborg Documentary Film Festival will set up in Patreksfjörður, a small town in the Westfjords. The full schedule wasn’t ready when The Grapevine went to print, but we got advance word on seven films. Last year’s winning director, Steinþór Birgisson, returns as a producer and co-screenwriter with ‘Reimt á Kili’ (“Haunted Trails”), a story about two brothers and their death, which has been debated for over 200 years.
Then the theme of last year’s winning film, ‘A Rural Priest,’ returns in another film: Grímur Hákonarson’s ‘Hreint hjarta’ (“Clean Heart”). This time the priest works in Selfoss and the surrounding areas, and the film focuses on the less visible work that the priest does. It also deals with the priest’s personal demons.
In what seems to be the Icelandic version of ‘Bigger Stronger Faster’, there will be a film called ‘Hrikalegir’ (“Steve Gym”), telling the tale of Iceland’s oldest bodybuilding fitness centre, which has been active for four decades. We get to know bodybuilders that were once famous, but are now forgotten, and we get a peek into a world of muscles that is hidden to most.
Director/guitarist Loji brings us ‘Ljóðræn heimildamynd’ (“A Poetic Documentary”). Yes, that’s the title, not just a description, and it documents a year in the life of his band Sudden Weather Change.
Then there are ‘Fjallkonan Hrópar á Vægð’ (“Cry for Mercy”), about the struggle to keep Icelandic fields green, and ‘Líf og sjóðir’ (“Life and Funds”), a film about the history of Icelandic pension funds. The latter may not sound terribly interesting until you consider all the scandals those pension funds were part of during the crash, so maybe there’s more to this film than meets the eye.
There are certainly more films to come. Last year, films were shown from morning to evening for two whole days. This means the schedule can be quite hectic, not to mention there are after-parties to attend and short trips to take around the area. You can read more about last year’s festival on the Grapevine website, but I’ll say it was one of the best weekends of my last year. So go enjoy a weekend of interesting films, good people and the unpredictability of the Icelandic summer.
And for the first time the festival will be truly accessible to foreigners who don’t understand Icelandic too well, since all the films will be shown with English subtitles.

Ásgeir H Ingólfsson

Originally published in The Reykjavík Grapevine on May 24th 2012.