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Boston’s first Icelandic film festival

Lilja Thorisdottir in the film “Revolution Reykjavik.”icelandic film festival/Courtesy of the Icelandic Film Festival

Icelandic music has developed a loyal following in this country, but Icelandic film? Not so much, probably because we rarely see it. Until now.

The Icelandic Film Festival is coming to the Kendall Square Cinema on Saturday, featuring three hours of short films and documentaries. The screenings are part of Taste of Iceland in Boston, a five-day cultural event that began on Thursday, showcasing Iceland's food, music (see Night Watch, Page G2), environmental initiatives, and, for the first time, film. As one might expect, the barren Icelandic landscape plays a role in many of the movies, as does the country's recent economic crisis, and the distinctly Icelandic sense of survivalist humor. Films include "In Search of Livingstone," a short about two men desperate for cigarettes during a dockworkers' strike; and "Revolution Reykjavik" about a bank employee struggling to retain her dignity as the economy tanks.


The festival is curated by the 14-year-old Reykjavik Shorts & Docs Festival, which is directed by British filmmaker Heather Millard. Iceland is her adopted home. We interviewed her by e-mail while she was in Rio de Janeiro attending a film market.

Q. What took you to Iceland?

A. A documentary project took me there in 2009. I intended to stay for three months but that turned into six. Then I realized that I should also do the post-production in Iceland, then I felt I owed it to Iceland to premiere the film there. I completely fell in love with the country and could also see many opportunities in the film industry and how I could apply my knowledge of the international marketplace to a number of Icelandic films.

Q. What would you say is distinctive about Icelandic film?

A. I think it's the cold humor of everyday life in Iceland. Films are a little bit bleak, with amazingly beautiful landscapes but with some black-dark comedy for light relief.


Q. This bleakness is the dominant public image of Iceland. Do Icelandic films show us something else?

A. There's no getting away from Icelandic nature and long, cold, dark winters playing a role in the personalities of Icelandic films. The films that do perhaps reflect this do, however, often have a warmth and humorous aspect to them as well, somewhat reflective of Icelandic rural life. I do foresee a new generation of filmmakers in Iceland that see the need for more genres in Icelandic filmmaking, with a particular interest in comedy and hybrid films.

Q. Did the economic crash that started in 2008 affect the film industry?

A. Budget cuts were quite severe but financial support is once again growing. There were fewer films being made with private investment.

Q. Is it rebounding?

A. Production quality of Icelandic films has never been higher. There seems to be more awareness of the Icelandic film industry — perhaps the attention to Iceland as a place for filmmaking has become apparent since feature films such as "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and the TV series "Game of Thrones" were partly filmed there.

Q. Who are some of the hot Icelandic filmmakers?

A. We have the internationally known director Baltasar Kormakur ("Contraband," "The Deep") and emerging filmmakers such as Baldvin Z, whose second feature, "Life in a Fishbowl," recently won over 10 EDDA awards [Icelandic Oscars]. We have the female director Isold Uggadottir, whose short film "Revolution Reykjavik" is at the Boston screening.


The Icelandic Film Festival will be held at the Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge on Saturday, 1-4 p.m. Admission is free, but reservations are encouraged. For more information go to www.iceland

Interview was edited and condensed. Linda Matchan can be reached at linda