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REPORT: Works in Progress @ Reykjavík 2022


- A plethora of projects from Iceland as well as Spain were presented at the Reykjavík International Film Festival’s industry event

REPORT: Works in Progress @ Reykjavík 2022
The Outlaw: The Story of Johnny King by Árni Sveinsson

Curated by programme director Frédéric Boyer and festival director Hrönn Marinósdóttir, the Works in Progress showcase of the Reykjavík International Film Festival this year featured 14 projects at different stages of development: six of them were from Iceland; four from the festival’s country in focus, Spain; two from the Faroe Islands; one from Canada; and one from Greenland. We take a closer look at them all below.

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Natatorium - Helena Stefáns-Magneudóttir (Iceland)
Currently in production, Natatorium was presented by producer Sunna Gudnadóttir, of Bjartsýn Films, who was struck by its “strong, haunting atmosphere”. In her video message, director Helena Stefáns-Magneudóttir, an established Icelandic visual artist, explained that she was “fascinated by disorders and abnormal human behaviours”, and that the film centres on a young girl who, against her parents’ advice, goes to stay with her estranged grandparents, who prove to be more dangerous than they seem. The central character is applying to join an art performance group, and the director described the way she moves the camera and her actors as choreography. The short clip shown at the event featured fancy chandeliers and austere interiors as well as sparkly dance costumes – the grandmother is played by Elín Petersdottir, who appeared in Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020).

Operation NapoleonÓskar Þór Axelsson (Iceland/Germany)
Now in post-production, Operation Napoleon is being directed by Óskar Þór Axelsson, who was behind the 2012 Icelandic hit Black’s Game [+see also:
film profile
. This Icelandic-German co-production – with producer Tinna Proppé, of Sagafilm and Germany’s Splendid Film, on board – centres on a conspiracy unveiled by the melting of an Icelandic glacier, which reveals a German World War II plane that many important people hoped would never resurface. The clip shown featured Scottish actor Iain Glen as a threatening CIA vice-director opposite Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, high-speed chases, ominous threats and intense action. The film is based on the 1999 novel of the same name by popular Icelandic crime writer Arnaldur Indriðason. Its international sales are handled by Beta Cinema.

In the Land of Meadows - Lee Lynch and Þorbjörg Jónsdóttir (Iceland)
In a totally different register, Lee Lynch described In the Land of Meadows, the film he is co-directing with his partner, Þorbjörg Jónsdóttir, as a “DIY historical epic” and a “folk film” based on the Icelandic sagas. Jónsdóttir explained their unconventional approach: rather than work from a set script, they instead researched specific historical moments and set up performances that re-enact those moments, which they then recorded. Extensively researched, the project is an attempt to “unfreeze and repackage the way truth and history are represented in cinema”, which naturally involves revisiting the way Vikings are represented.

The Home Game - Smári Gunnarsson and Logi Sigursveinsson (Iceland)
Gunnarsson joined live from London to present the feature-length documentary The Home Game, which he is co-directing with Logi Sigursveinsson. This feel-good sports documentary centres on one man’s mission to fulfil his father’s dream by finally setting up the first home game on the football pitch that he made 25 years ago in their small Icelandic village. Gunnarsson explained that the “small but mighty” identity of his subject echoes that of Iceland as a whole on the world stage. It is also an underdog story, where the football pitch welcomes anyone to play, regardless of age, gender and ability. In the latter stages of post-production and with Icelandic distribution already secured, the film is now looking for an international festival to hold its world premiere.

The Outlaw: The Story of Johnny KingÁrni Sveinsson (Iceland)
Currently in production, The Outlaw: The Story of Johnny King was presented by Sveinsson, who explained that he set out to make a portrait of this famous Icelandic country singer, but that the film became something else entirely: an exploration of fame, ageing, sexual abuse, art and ambition, but also documentary practices. The film is co-written and co-produced by Andri Freyr Viðarsson, one of the most prominent radio hosts in Iceland. It is being produced by Republik.

Motherland - Kreshnik Jonuzi and Sævar Guðmundsson (Iceland/USA)
Motherland was presented by New York City-based director Kreshnik Jonuzi and Icelandic helmer Sævar Guðmundsson. This Icelandic-US co-production explores the aftermath of deportation for a family that lived in America for most of their lives and find themselves having to adjust to a new reality in Albania. With post-production now wrapped, the film is looking for distribution and a potential festival premiere.

When Sprakkar Rise Up - Sylvie Van Brabant and Doris Buttignol (Canada/France/Belgium)
This Canadian-French-Belgian co-production by Sylvie Van Brabant and Doris Buttignol follows three women fighting for change on all fronts in their own way. The film is looking for more financing and an Icelandic co-producer.

and Tinganes - Torfinnur Jákupsson (creator) (Faroe Islands)
From the Faroe Islands, producer Jón Hammer and creator Torfinnur Jákupsson presented two projects through their venture GRÓ Studios: the feature and the series Tinganes, currently at the script and financing stage, respectively. The former, described as a neo-western, centres on a newsman who has a breakdown live on local radio, and was described by Jákupsson as a story about “a broken, misplaced modern man on a personal quest through the epic Faroe landscape” as well as an environmental tale. Tinganes is a geopolitical thriller based on the first novel by the first Faroese public prosecutor, about a series of crimes that triggers an international crisis. Both projects are seeking financing and co-production partners.

Tasiilaq - Christoffer Stenbakken and Alberte Parnuuna Lings Skifte (Greenland/Denmark)
From Greenland, Christoffer Stenbakken and Alberte Parnuuna Lings Skifte presented Tasiilaq, a series project at the script-development stage about a town in East Greenland with a terrible reputation as a den of alcoholism and abuse. The two directors, who grew up there, seek to show it in a different, more realistic light, with a youth series made in collaboration with local youngsters: “It is as much a social project as it is a film project,” said Stenbakken. They are looking for more funding and potential partners seeking to invest in the production phase of the project.

Last Night I Conquered the City of Thebes - Gabriel Azorín (Spain/Portugal) 
The first Spanish project to be presented was Last Night I Conquered the City of Thebes, with director Gabriel Azorín and producer Carlos Pardo Ros from DVEIN Films. Currently in development, the film is about friendship between young men, in the 21st and the 1st century, and stars non-professional actors. The international co-production is 60% funded and is seeking international partners, either those who can fill the gap in the financing or sales agents who can help promote the film.

Notes on a Summer [+see also:
film review
film profile
- Diego Llorente (Spain)
Notes on a Summer was presented by director and producer Llorente. The film tells the story of a woman in her thirties who goes back to her hometown for the summer and reunites with a former lover; she is torn between her “real life” at university with her boyfriend and the “fantasy” of her romance in her hometown. Llorente added that although this film isn’t high-concept, it can be read on many levels: psychological, sociological and more. The movie is in post-production, and is seeking distribution, festival premieres and a sales agent.

Younger Days - Gerard Vidal Barrena (Spain)
Director Gerard Vidal Barrena and producer David Aymerich presented Younger Days, about a young singer-songwriter from Barcelona disillusioned with her career, who takes a plane to Iceland after meeting a troubled Icelandic bass player herself dealing with her own troubles. “When we imagine a music film, a certain kind of movie comes to mind, but we just want to tell a humble and honest story about average people,” said Vidal Barrena. The project is looking for a co-producing partner.

Dabruneba - Mar Garro Lleonart (Spain)
Finally, director Mar Garro Lleonart and producer Júlia Farràs Riu presented Dabruneba, which is currently at the post-production stage. The road documentary centres on a young woman who, after getting engaged to her Georgian boyfriend, decides to retrace the journey that her own family made 18 years prior when they fled Georgia for Spain, but in reverse. In the process, she reconnects with other people who fled at the time and recalls memories from her childhood, all the while trying to work out where she belongs. The project is seeking funding to complete post-production as well as co-producers, sales agents and distributors.

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