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Hrönn Kristinsdóttir, Carolina Salas • Artistic director and managing director, Stockfish Film Festival

“There is something new happening, so come and take part in it”


- The Icelandic festival’s new duo of directors want to attract both audiences and industry professionals to the Reykjavík-based gathering

Hrönn Kristinsdóttir, Carolina Salas  • Artistic director and managing director, Stockfish Film Festival
Hrönn Kristinsdóttir (left) and Carolina Salas

With a new team and a new approach, Iceland’s Stockfish Film Festival – set to wrap on 2 April in Reykjavík – wants to attract both audiences and industry professionals, say its artistic director and managing director, respectively Hrönn Kristinsdóttir and Carolina Salas.

Cineuropa: What was on your mind when you decided to lead this event?
Hrönn Kristinsdóttir:
I have been producing all my life [among others, Kristinsdóttir was behind Lamb [+see also:
film review
interview: Valdimar Jóhannsson
film profile
], and I am new to this playground, but I can say that we are rebranding. This festival was founded in 1978, then “put to sleep” until 2015, then run by the same organisers for nine editions. Now, we are coming back to that initial mission. The way we see it, it should be the home and the heart of Icelandic filmmakers, a place where they can meet international colleagues and press.

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Carolina Salas: The idea is to serve as an umbrella for these filmmakers, generally encourage our industry to take action, build international bridges and encourage local creators to be more proactive. We want to show everyone the value of what can be found here.

During Stockfish’s Industry Days, your guests can meet all of the institutions and local decision makers – sometimes over the course of one day. Is that the ambition? To make these interactions a bit easier?
One of the advantages of this festival is that it’s small, which means there’s easier access. Everyone is introduced to each other, and we are always in the same venues. Take the master class by Tár cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister. He is respected all over the world, and he was nominated for an Oscar, but here, he will talk to 200 people, and later you can say hello to him in the lobby! That’s probably one of our main values: that simple, human approach.

The titles you chose for the festival could be referred to as “audience-friendly arthouse”, meaning there is ambition here, but they are also watchable.
We don’t have too many films, and that can be an advantage, too – at least you don’t get an anxiety attack! We’ve created all of these “film corners” this year. We have the LUX corner, the EFA corner, the Sundance corner. We want people to get out of the house, of course, and come to the cinema, which has been quite difficult after the pandemic. But at the end of the day, these are quality films. Also, we would like to focus more on world cinema in the future, and bring Asian and African filmmakers to Iceland as well.

CS: The European Film Awards took place here in December, and we will celebrate its chairman, Mike Downey, too, so with this particular corner, it felt like we were closing that circle. Still, these film corners will certainly diversify over the years. We are thinking about having a different focus each year, so whether they will still be audience-friendly or not remains to be seen.

Speaking of Mike Downey, why did he feel like the right choice as the recipient of your Honorary Award?
Mike has achieved so much in his career, and he is a dear friend of Iceland. He has been co-producing with our country since, I would say, 1997. He has been coming here often and has done many things of great importance. He just seemed like the right person.

Many people in this industry would like to be called “a dear friend of Iceland”, considering how successful these films are on the festival circuit. When it comes to your WIP showcase, are you going to pay extra attention to projects’ international potential?
We will have three documentaries, five fiction features and two TV shows this year. We had an open call, and then we collaborated with the Icelandic Film Centre on this year’s selection. We tried to focus not just on the established filmmakers, but on some up-and-coming names, too. Also, most project holders are women, and we are very proud of that. We are not quite there when it comes to gender quality, but we are certainly trying!

Are you also actively trying to reach the audience and perhaps find brand-new viewers?
The so-called “general moviegoers” might think that because we have this industry part, it’s not for them, so of course we had to address it, and make sure they could socialise after watching the films and bring others. If you can’t see something, it might as well not exist, so we needed to make some noise. It was like saying: “There is something new happening, so come and take part in it.”

We are really trying to showcase our local industry, show that there are opportunities to make new connections. We had our Slovak focus yesterday, then we talked about inclusion in cinema. It was interesting to see how Icelanders are trying to cope with these standards. It’s not just about selling tickets, although that’s obviously great. We are ambitious, don’t get me wrong, but we are here for the industry and the filmmakers, too. We want to grow, but to grow with people.

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