The International Visits Program North Americantour by Mats WibeLund, whose specialty is aerialphotos of Icelandic farms intheir natural settings has beengraded highly successful by all 11 host clubs.
Mats’ obsession is to take a picture of every farm in Iceland. He flies all over the country to capture the natural beauty of their surroundings, be it a river, glacier, geyser, mountain or volcano. The result is a huge data base of beautiful photographs, over 300,000 of them. Mats concentrated on family farms for his tour, which ran from September 24 to October 16.
Mats moved to Iceland from Norway in 1954, and settled in Reykjavík in 1966. He studied aerial photography in the Royal Norwegian Air Force, with NATO in France, and at college in Germany from 1956-62. Mats Wibe Lund’s work reflects Iceland in all its many and varied shades and moods. Over the years, he has taken part in several joint exhibitions both in Iceland and abroad, and staged numerous one-man exhibitions in his adopted country. For his North American tour, organized by the International Visits Program of the INL of NA with the support of Icelandair, presentations were customized for each location to show ancestral farms of people in that area. The first stop was Minneapolis.
Minneapolis, September 24, Chris Byron
Mats Wibe Lund’s presentation in Minneapolis was the first in his visitation tour. He gave a great show, excellent quality on pictures, great geographical knowledge of Iceland, willing to share and respond to any question. All in all a very worthwhile presentation and afternoon. I certainly recommend that every one encourage your membership to attend. They will learn a great deal and like myself get a better understanding of what is meant by the use of the words Icelandic Farm, at least looking back to immigration days. I fully enjoyed it.
Toronto, Icelandic Canadian Club of Toronto, September 26, Gail Einarson-McCleery
“Wow, what a beautiful country!” “Does the sun always shine in Iceland?” “I didn’t know there was so much flat land for farms” “It is so incredible to see my ancestors’ farm from above, so different from just visiting it, as one sees the whole surroundings”, “It was an interesting presentation and great to meet Mats after years of looking at his work.” Those were just some of the comments from Mats Wibe Lund’s Ancestral Farms show in Toronto. Mats’ pictures were so crisp and beautiful that the audience of 30 ICCT members and general public were very impressed. His knowledge of the geography of the whole country, which mountain was to the left and which glacier was to the right in the pictures, was phenomenal, and his sense of humour added a lot to the presentation.One interesting fact which emerged was about how he got those beautiful images. Of course, all of them are from the air ... it turns out that the number of days per year in which it is possible to get those kind of images is limited to about six weeks in the summer ... and taking into account cloudy days, visibility, availability of aircraft and pilots, Mats’ availability, and the challenge of getting exactly the right angle of light, and the right perspective to capture the surroundings so well, all of this from a moving airplane, it is a wonder that he has over 300,000 spectacular pictures.
Ottawa, Friends of Iceland, September 28, Sig Sigurdson
Mats Wieb Lund’s presentation and running commentary on the geography of Iceland and the ancestral farms kept his audience thoroughly entertained for over an hour. In this case, if more time had been allocated for this presentation, the majority of people in the audience would have enjoyed seeing many more of Mats’ pictures of the rugged beauty of the Icelandic landscapes. All of these pictures are certainly one of Iceland’s best kept secrets. Mats gave so very generously of his time, answering the continuing flow of questions after the presentation and through the latter part of the evening at the reception. The event was held in the Ambassador’s Viewing Room. Sigríður Anna Þórðardóttir, Ambassador from Iceland to Canada, hosted a reception in Mats’ honour.Without a doubt, this was one of the best presentations that we have seen in a long, long time. Thirty-seven members of the FOI – Ottawa were in attendance.
Arborg, Esjan Club, October 2, David Gislason
Mats’ visit to Arborg was a happy one all around. His wife, Arndís, has many family connections in the area, which added to their enjoyment. Mats went through a lengthy list of fabulous pictures, which highlighted the beauty and diversity of the Icelandic landscape. His audience of approximately 75 was keenly interested in this connection with their ancestral geography.Members of the Esjan Chapter took Mats and Arndís on a tour of this part of historic New Iceland. Mats was captivated by some of the early buildings that still remain, both as restored artefacts in the Arborg and District Heritage Village and as a few still to be found in their original settings. The tour took in the Betsy Ramsay gravesite, Riverton Heritage Park and Hecla Island. The restored Hecla Village is one of our best representations of Icelandic influence and culture in this area. The Island was populated almost exclusively by Icelandic people, and Parks Manitoba has preserved it in its 1940s and 50s architecture. On the Island they were treated to a barbeque out on the veranda of an island home. In this relaxing atmosphere they could gaze out over Lake Winnipeg, with Black Island just across the Narrows. On every hand, the Island was adorned in its bright autumn colours. The forest has an appealing mix of trees that burst into their various hues just at this time of year. A visit to this area is not complete without a visit with Arborg’s famous bird carver, Einar Vigfusson, and his wife Rosalind. In the summertime, their home becomes a gallery replete with many examples of Einar’s art. Mats had a small camera with him, and vows to return with his professional gear.
Edmonton, October 8, Icelandic Canadian Club of Edmonton, Bev Arason-Gaudet
October 8th was a beautiful and sunny day in Edmonton and approximately 44 members of the Icelandic Canadian Club of Edmonton came out to the Dutch Canadian Centre, home of the Scandinavians, to meet Mats Wibe Lund and view his extraordinary photographs. The names of 34 family farms had been submitted and Mats surely did not disappoint. The joy of seeing family farms for the first time was evident on the faces of all who attended. There were many questions for Mats following the show and he graciously spent time with everyone while enjoying coffee and a selection of cookies, cakes, pies and fruit.
Vancouver, October 11, Kristjana Helgason
Mats and Arndís arrived in Vancouver Monday morning and were greeted by Oli Leifsson. He took them to his house in Port Moody and they had a little rest before heading down to the Scandinavian Centre, the venue for the show.On Tuesday morning Oli took them to Burnaby Mountain. The weather did not cooperate, raining on and off so the view from the mountain was not the nicest. For lunch they went to Hofn, the Icelandic old folks home, a new beautiful old folks home, had a nice lunch there and took a tour around the facilities.Tuesday evening was the show. Around 35 people came out. The pictures were beautiful, few of the people had never been to Iceland and really appreciated to see the farms where their family came from. After the show, people socialized over coffee and goodies, the evening ended around 10 o’clock. Wednesday morning Oli took them for a drive to Vancouver and in the afternoon dropped them off at Coquitlam mall for some shopping. Thursday the weather got a little better so Oli took them sightseeing around Horseshoe Bay and Stanley Park for the day. Friday morning he drove them to Blaine.
Blaine WA, Rob Olason
Mats Weibe Lund’s twenty-four hour visit to Blaine was brief but sweet. Roxanne Tranberg enjoyed the presentation and said Mats’ photos “whetted her appetite to visit Iceland.” The twenty plus attendees were captivated with the images of ancestral farms nestled in valleys or clinging to the base of steep mountainsides. Mats kept the show lively with his descriptions, quips and humorous anecdotes. At the potluck prior to the show, Vikki Finnson enjoyed visiting with Mats’ wife, Arndís. Harold Olason thought Mats was “quite a character, who liked to tease.” He also said that hosting Mats and Arndís was like having a visit with old friends. Ever the photographer, Mats was snapping pictures of eagles from the Olason’s back deck, and capturing images of Blaine and neighboring Birch Bay landscapes on a brief tour of the area.
Seattle, October 16, Henry Bjornsson
Mats Wibe Lund made his last presentation at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle before an enthusiastic audience. As he has in other venues, he concentrated on images of the family farms of ancestors of people in the audience. Following his presentation, he answered questions about his aerial photography project, and how to order downloads and prints. With his transcontinental tour complete, he and Arndís returned to Iceland the next day on a direct flight from Seattle to Reykjavík.
And the last word goes to Mats Wibe Lund, October 20, IcelandKæru vinir – Dear friends in INL of NA – in each and every club which we visited, thanks for the good time we spent together – thakka ykkur kaerlega fyrir sidast.Arndís and I are now back again in Iceland after almost four weeks of visiting and sharing good times with you. We thank you so much for the great hospitality we were shown. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting each and every one of you. Words can simply not thank you enough. We look forward to being in touch again sooner or later – and just want to assure you that we appreciate getting news from you about how we can follow up and nurish the seeds that we planted together. Bringing the former homesteads of our ancestors up front, wakes up the past and lets us remind our younger ones of their roots.
Með bestu kveðju,
Arndís og Mats
It was a busy time, getting ready for that party. We were all excited and hopeful. We hoped that we would get a good crowd.
I was lucky enough to travel to Winnipeg for the event, and many of us spent the entire previous day decorating the newspaper’s office on Portage Avenue.
Vi Hilton picked me up that morning, and off we went to the office. When we arrived, we found Linda Hammersley and Pat Odegard already hard at work, dusting the decorations on the shelves. Soon, Garry Oddleifson and Peter Johnson came in.
Peter was carrying several bottles of Brennivín for the party, and I took that as a very good sign. Dan Snidal appeared with a beautiful silver samovar and all the makings for the coffee, and then rushed back to work. Balloons, flowers, and ribbons. Vi’s tasteful elegance came through at every turn.
All the while, Audrey and Catherine tried to do their regular work with us rushing around them, and often had to stop to help us with one thing or another. When we left that night, we thought we were pretty much ready for the next day. Only last minute things remained to be done. Rúllupylsa and brown bread from Palsson Family Foods remained to be sliced, and other foods prepared and set out. The 125th Birthday Celebration of the Lögberg-Heimskringla newspaper was almost upon us.
On the day of the party, the Icelandic community definitely came through. There were lots of people, and in addition many greetings were sent in. Some were read aloud. President of the Board, Grant Stefanson, did a great job as master of ceremonies. He is definitely in his element at this sort of event.
Samples of greetings read aloud to the party-goers:
From Valdine G. Johnson:“The heads of our family as I think of them now, were my parents John and Olina Johnson, who were married in 1920. The only newspapers they had at that time were the two newspapers Lögberg and Heimskringla. 91 years later, there are still some of their descendants who take the newspaper. One of the descendants is very much involved in the Board and writing for the paper, and two people have strong attachments to Icelandic organizations which have attachments to Lögberg-Heimskringla. One of the fifth generation attended Icelandic camp this summer. As a family, we still feel a deep connection to the newspaper. I will be pleased to attend the 125th birthday celebration of the Lögberg-Heimskringla, and to hear about the history of the paper.”
From Dr Allan M Johnson and Joanne Fredrickson DiCosimo:
“Congratulations to Lögberg-Heimskringla on its 125th anniversary of publishing a newspaper for the Icelandic community in North America. I first subscribed to Lögberg-Heimskringla in the 1980s, when Bob Oleson was Chairman of the Board. Bob convinced me that it was very important for us, as descendants, to ensure that this vehicle for communication among Icelanders in North America be kept viable. I have been a subscriber ever since. His rationale was and is compelling. When I was in my early teens, I remember the Heimskringla, in Icelandic, arriving in our home. It was read cover to cover by folks who had very little formal education themselves, but who had a very high value for the written word and for learning. This inspired me to continue my own education. Heimskringla commenced publication on September 9, 1886 and four years later, in July, 1890, Gestur Palsson arrived in Winnipeg to become co-editor with Eggert Johannsson. Gestur had been Poet Laureate of Iceland, and was a first cousin of my wife’s (Joanne Fredrickson of Winnipegosis, MB) great-grandmother, Sigríður Petursdóttir. A large stone memorial stands on a hillside near Miðhus, his home in the West Fjords, to commemorate Gestur as Poet Laureate (Skald). My wife, Joanne and I send our sincere best wishes to the Lögberg-Heimskringla on this 125th anniversary.”
A message from the Jon Sigurdsson Chapter of the IODE:
“Greetings to the Lögberg-Heimskringla from the Jon Sigurdsson Chapter IODE on the occasion of this 125th Birthday Celebration. Lögberg-Heimskringla re-mains the single most important conduit for North Americans of Icelandic descent. The paper informs, reports, and connects events and news from both sides of the ocean, keeping third, fourth, and fifth generations in North America aware of their shared cultural heritage. Lögberg-Heimskringla is fortunate to have good governance and at the same time a management team fully capable of running a smooth operation. Both entities work in cooperation to produce a lively, interesting bi-weekly paper. To 125 years of a continuously published ethnic newspaper. Congratulations!”
During the interludes in speeches, attendees were offered brown bread and rúllupylsa, fruit and cheese, pönnukökur and vínarterta, and they could help themselves to kaffi and molasykur. If they were really brave, they could have a shot of Brennivín. Later in the ceremony, the special 125th birthday cake was cut, while The Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra’s Richard Gillis played the jazz trumpet to Happy Birthday, from the mezzanine.
We were entertained by the Sólskrikjan choir, directed by Kerrine Wilson. Kerrine is a professional musician, teaching, accompanying, performing, and directing more than one choir. The choir was originally formed by Ingrid Slobodian and Dorothy Christofferson-Tygat about two years ago, because none of the local choirs were singing in the Icelandic language. They sung four Icelandic songs – Nú yfir heiði háa, a riding song; Sú rödd var svo fögor, a song about the songbird sólskrikjan;Hvað er svo glatt, a well know song about getting together with friends; and Undir dalanna sól, under the valley sun. The choir sounded beautiful singing from up on the mezzanine floor.
During the party, former editor / now film-maker Caelum Vatnsdal worked on filming the event for “MTS on Demand”. Caelum received a grant for this film, after having sent in three proposals. Lögberg-Heimskringla was the lucky winner. In addition, Peter Johnson donated video equipment so that we will have a permanent video record of the day. For some reason, the video shows me all dressed up, but continually carrying a plastic bag around with me! I have no idea what was in that bag, but I guess that is how I will go down in history.
As part of the anniversary of the oldest surviving ethnic newspaper published in Canada, Lögberg-Heimskringla had made up plaques for those advertisers that were with us then, and are still with us now. Eirik Bardal accepted the plaque for Neil Bardal, Inc. The Bardals are the longest continuing advertisers in our history, beginning in 1894. Other plaques will be distributed to the two Betel Homes in Gimli and Selkirk, H. P. Tergesen and Sons Store, Gilbart Funeral Home, Thor’s Meats, Tip Top Foods and Icelandair.
Special guests in attendance were Norwegian Consulate Natalie Denesovych, who made a speech, and Danish Consulate Helle Zeidler Wilson. Wendy Hart represented the Press Club. Wendy had previously presented Lögberg-Heimskringla with a magazine that included the history of the Club, as well as the long history of our newspaper. In her research, Ms. Hart discovered that Lögberg and Heimskringla preceded the formation of the Press Club. We were honoured to have Grant Nordman, City Councillor St. Charles Ward, and Peter Bjornson, MLA Gimli present. Peter Johnson and Tim Samson each spoke about aspects of the successful application from the paper’s endowment fund with the Winnipeg Foundation, and about the future of the paper. Their speeches also appear in this issue.
For all of us who attended the party, for all of us who helped in many and various ways with the party and for all of us – who sent messages of congratulations to the party, our Icelandic North American community was especially dear to us on the evening of October 13, 2011. May that spirit live on and thrive for another 125 years.
Since 1959, the Icelandic Canadian Club of Toronto has been bridging the Atlantic Ocean gap between Iceland and Iceland-west.
On October 13, ICCT welcomed 50 teachers from Hammrahlið Menntaskol in Reykjavík who were visiting Ontario for four days.
Photo: Joseph Helgi Chisholm
They didn’t come to worry about the eminent expulsion of volcanic ash and magma from Katla; they didn’t come to talk about southern Ontario’s melt-down of RIM stock. They came to shop, to visit and to be entertained by songstress, Sigrún Stella at Spring Garden Church in North York.
The highlight of the night was the debut of Sigrún Stella’s CD, Crazy Blue. The sets were divided into two stylish variations. Playing her guitar, Sigrún Stella sang with Edda McKenzine on background vocals. For the bluesy, moodier second set, Sigrún Stella invited co-writer and guitarist, Michael Lowry, to pick up the rhythm section.
What was this album called Crazy Blue? The final line of the title song is “Maybe I am crazy, crazy blue…”
“People think this is a love song and it is more personal than that. I have never talked about it with anyone,” confides Sigrún Stella. “My father died. Six months later I found myself in my room at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg, waiting to perform later that day in Gimli. In the silence, this song just came out. Those are always the best songs, the ones that just flow. When my dad died, I felt anxious, I felt sick, I thought I was also about to die. The song is about my grief and depression from losing my dad. Others knew I was grief stricken, but I didn’t. I guess I had to get it out and I wrote this song. I was crazy, crazy blue, sick with grief.”
Equal to the emotional journey the songs of Crazy Blue take us on, Sigrún Stella keeps the live show light with songs and banter in both Icelandic and Southern Ontario. “Spin the Boy” is a light look at love and life. “That’s who I am in life. I am not a dark person, I keep it light. As for joking around with the audience, I surprise myself. When I think I will just sing the songs, I find myself talking up a storm. When I plan what to say, I just can’t. You never know what you’re going to get with me.”
How does she know whether a song is going to be written in Icelandic or English? “Two songs I wrote with Michael Lowry are in the bluesy vein and those seem to come out in Icelandic. So far, I seem to prefer to write in English, but the last one I wrote myself was Icelandic, so who knows what’s coming.
“It is interesting to see what people like and don’t like. Icelandic Canadian Club audiences seem to like the bluesy tunes. Follow You Home, on the other hand, I wrote as kind of a joke and secretly that’s my favorite song right now. That’s the most popular of my songs currently in Iceland. It’s not too serious but it says the things the listener might not have the courage to say. I wrote it a few days before we finished this album and it was a last minute decision to add it to Crazy Blue If you like it, it may be a hint of the style to come for my next CD.”
How did the CD take off in Iceland first? Follow You Home, one of the songs, has graced the radio airwaves of Iceland for over a month. “I feel like my CD release was in Iceland. It’s way harder here in Canada. It’s easier to be a big fish in a small pond. I don’t know how to attack the market here. I had a few friends in Iceland helping me out. I don’t want to bother people with my music. The way an artist-mind works. I don’t have that business-side, I don’t like to push people. I want to make the art. When I was studying music business at the Trebas Institute in Toronto, I could see I was different than the other students. They all wanted to promote music. I just wanted to be the artist.
“It made me very excited to get the airplay in Iceland but that wasn’t my doing. Other people did that. I played at The Painted Lady here in Toronto and people said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ I tell them I didn’t feel comfortable bothering my friends about my show. Even my Facebook page, I wasn’t comfortable with that and my friends in Iceland had to tell me that’s what we have to do.”
If you’re a music fan who thinks all artists are egotistic hams who just love talking about themselves, a few great songwriters will slip beyond your peripheral vision. Look for Sigrún Stella on Youtube, Myspace or Facebook or better yet, organize a meet and greet and have Sigrún Stella perform for your friends or community group. Someone like Sigrún Stella’s could use a street-team in every province. She won’t disappoint an audience but don’t wait for her to toot her own horn.
The dozen 21st century folk tales of Crazy Blue show a maturity and musical prowess you don’t expect from a debut record. Some first attempts from female singer-songwriters are TMI (too much information) visits into a young girl’s poor, poor, pitiful me diary. These songs range from bar-room love to abduction, from Beach-Boy-esque simplicity to Jean-Paul Sartre despair, sung to us in English, Icelandic and the secret language of the heart.
Lyrics by Sigrún Stella
They say it’s in my head, I say I beg to differ./ They say once you’re dead it’s all done and said./ I dealt with heart ache, I dealt with pain/ it’s all the same./ And I apologize for all my mistakes, all my mistakes./Or am I just crazy… crazy blue?
The Jon Sigurdsson Chapter IODE, Winnipeg, held a very successful Bridge and Whist Luncheon at Betelstaður on Saturday, September 24, 2011. Featured was a sumptuous home baking table that included many Icelandic delicacies. Highlights of the delicious luncheon were rúllupylsa on brown bread and a dessert that included vínarterta and pönnukökur, a meal that was enjoyed by all. Other popular attractions were the Tombola prizes and the door prizes.
Our card players were a dedicated and competitive group. Congratulations to the following people who won prizes for high scores in bridge and whist.
First: Ingrid Slobodian
Second: Lillian Thomas
Third: Frank Wilson
First: Yvonne Briese
Second: Olga Slobogian
The IODE is now only known by its initials, as the original name is outdated (Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire). Our Chapter has always been unique because of its ethnic origins.
The Jon Sigurdsson Chapter IODE was formed in Winnipeg in 1916 to give support to Canadian armed forces serving in World War I. Members knit, wrote letters, rolled bandages and served wherever needed to help our troops overseas. Later, the Chapter compiled and published two books, Veterans of Icelandic Descent in North America, one volume each for World War I and World War II, recording the service records and biographical details of veterans of Icelandic descent. Both books will soon be available online through the Icelandic Collection at the University of Manitoba.
In 2008, our Chapter attended a rededication ceremony of the Tear Drop Section of the Field of Honour, held at Brookside Cemetery, Winnipeg. The forward-looking IODE Chapters in Manitoba purchased this area after World War I to provide a final resting place for the veterans who had sacrificed their lives. It is beautifully landscaped, with maintenance funded by the Federal Government.
The proceeds raised by our two fundraising Bridge and Whist Luncheons, in September and March, go to fund our scholarship and community programs. The Jon Sigurdsson Chapter annually awards from nine to 13 scholarships, worth approximately $9,000, to deserving Manitoba students who are entering or continuing their studies at the university level. Information on applying for these scholarships appears in L-H each year in the spring.
Other programs supported by our Chapter include: assisting at the Manitoba Citizenship Court for new Canadians; purchase of African drums for the music program at the Peaceful Village, an after-school program for refugee and immigrant children and their families; annual gifts of money and goods-in-kind for support programs at Mulvey and Isaac Brock Schools, as well as at Rossbrook House, an after-school program in the core area. Our Chapter received the Mayor’s Volunteer Service Award in 2010 in recognition of our work in the community.
Annually on June 17, the Jon Sigurdsson Chapter IODE participates in the wreath-laying ceremony at the statue of Jón Sigurðsson on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislative Building, followed by a program to celebrate the anniversary of Iceland’s Independence. This enjoyable evening is organized in partnership with the Icelandic Canadian Frón.
“The Jon Sigurdsson Chapter IODE thanks everyone who attended and made our Fall Bridge and Whist Luncheon such a success.
Your support will enable us to continue our scholarship programs for deserving Manitoba students, as well as our community and citizenship programs. We look forward to seeing all our friends again in March, 2012 at our Spring Bridge and Whist Luncheon,” said the members.
For information on joining the Jon Sigurdsson Chapter IODE, contact the Membership Chairman Erla Wankling at 489-3684.
It’s Saturday night and being an Icelandic descendant, you’re naturally thinking it’s high time you watched another Icelandic film.
You check the newspaper anticipating disappointment and, yep, there are plenty of teen comedies, horror flicks and big budget action films available at the local cineplex, but no Icelandic features.
A quick phone call to the neighborhood video rental store and you discover their newest Icelandic film is Beowulf & Grendel and you are the last person who rented it. Your local Icelandic club has the documentary Dreamland scheduled a month from now, but you want to watch an Icelandic film and you want to watch it NOW.Normally the search would stop, most unsuccessfully, at this point. The evening’s desired Icelandic film showing would be replaced with a few hours of fruitless channel cruising on TV, or finally facing up to the challenge of that unsorted sock drawer.
Thanks to a conversation between two homesick Icelanders over a glass of wine one winter in the Czech Republic, a new option for watching Icelandic film now exists. During Christmas Holiday 2009, Sunna Guðnadóttir was visiting her friend Stefanía Thors in Prague when they both had a craving to watch an Icelandic film. Specifically, they wanted to view the Icelandic comedy Sódóma Reykjavíkur, after remembering some delightful moments in the film.
To their anguished surprise, a quick internet search for the film came up empty. Further on-line searching left them astonished that there was no internet “home” for Icelandic Cinema. With this realization, Sunna and Steffi knew what they had to do: harness the internet to bring Icelandic film to the world. While the concept sounds simple enough, getting from the idea stage to creating that Icelandic Film portal on the world wide web became an intricate process that took nearly two years to complete.
To help shape the concept, the duo entered their plan into a contest designed to discover promising new business ideas in February 2010. In April, the winners were announced and their concept, which became Icelandic Cinema Online (ICO), did not take top honors but had risen into the top 10 ideas out of 300 entries.
Buoyed by the positive response, they were now convinced this project needed to be completed. During the next year they continued applying for grants and sponsorships as they enlisted the help of friends to create the digital infrastructure to make their dream possible. “I think the difficulties in getting official support were most surprising during the development of this project,” said Sunna Guðnadóttir.”
We still have not received any public funds, except a small grant for this project,” she said, “even though we feel it is a natural for funds that give grants for innovative projects.” One of the biggest obstacles to funding is a basic misunderstanding about the potential for the site to showcase Icelandic film worldwide in a setting that enhances the cinematic experience. “Icelandic films have a wide audience abroad,” Sunna said, and IOC would like to feature those films in the best presentation possible.
She appreciates that the Icelandic government is committed to the growth of small and medium sized enterprises, and cited a government report that the “creative industries” in Iceland have made huge contributions to the economy. However, she said, “governments in general respond slowly, and the film industry in Iceland faces many obstacles.” Sunna said the Icelandic film industry itself “is in a critical state due to the massive downsizing in funds the industry has had to endure in the past three years.”
Despite these economic trends, in May 2011, with limited private funding, a small grant, and an all-volunteer staff, this new outlet for Icelandic art was launched at www.IcelandicCinema.com. Sunna Guðnadóttir is pleased with the results to date. Icelandic Cinema Online (ICO) provides a much needed venue “for introducing the country abroad, and for creating new opportunities for film-makers in Iceland to distribute their films.”
And of course, for fans of Icelandic Cinema, ICO makes the Icelandic film heritage finally available for easy access. When the site first launched, roughly one third of the visitors were from Iceland. As Icelandic film fans across the world continue to find the site that number has dropped to one-quarter of the overall visitors. The bulk of the site guests are from USA, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
There are many visits from Canada, Denmark, Poland, France, Spain, and Norway. In a recent posting on ICO’s Facebook page, they highlight the fact that the site has been accessed by people from 127 different countries. With no promotion budget, ICO has been relying on social media sites like Facebook to reach Icelandic film fans.
The Facebook page features lively conversations about the films available on ICO, with frequent updates on the latest films added to the collection.The offerings are a treasure trove of Icelandic film, with feature films representing a wide range of the most popular titles such as Angels of the Universe and a recent film, Our Own Oslo. The site also has many short features that would typically be seen only once or twice in Iceland. The site has several free films to entice visitors to try out the process of ordering a film.
One of the challenges they face in the quest to acquire additional titles for the site is tracking down the owners of films to gain permission to carry a new title. In an interview in the September 23 issue of The Reykjavik Grapevine, Steffi Thors said getting approval can be very time consuming, because people are busy making their films and tracking down original prints, so permissions are low on their priority list. In searching for films to post on the site, they have also discovered some older films may never be available because the original prints are now lost.
Sunna added that the cost of digitizing an older film for online viewing is also a limiting factor. All of these costs quickly add up for a small arts organization that still needs a source of funding if it is to continue showcasing Icelandic film into the foreseeable future.Can an all-volunteer staff, subscriber-funded cultural enterprise save more Icelandic film from disappearing into the past and make these films available for a worldwide audience?
That lofty goal was the dream two friends shared one Christmas season in Prague. With great effort, their dream is now a reality that Icelandic film fans can enjoy and support.
How to view a film on ICO
he first step after landing at http://www.icelandiccinema.com/ is to register as a user by clicking the “Register” tab on the top right of the main page. Enter your email address and create a password and you are now able to start accessing the available films. Try one of the short films located under the “Free” tab to test your connection speed and your computer’s sound and video display.
After making a selection, a “Watch Film” box will appear showing the viewing cost is 0 euros. Simply click the box, and a dialog box will state “You are about to rent a film. Film rental is valid for 24 hours. You will be charged €0 from your credit.
If you experience any problems with streaming please try a smaller file size.” Click the “Continue” tab and within a few moments, the film will start playing. If you move your cursor over the “movie screen,” a bar will display at the bottom of the film, showing the running length of the film (timeline) and how much of the film has already played.
If your connection is fast enough, you can choose to play the film in “HD” (High Definition). This is a simple task of clicking on the small white box to the right of the timeline. Doing so will enlarge the film display to fill your entire computer monitor. If the film slows down or the picture and sound begin to “freeze,” try resizing the display back to the smaller size by pressing your “escape” key to close the larger display. If you need “close captioning” look for that icon in the bottom right corner of film screen. Several films offer that option. Simply click the icon to turn close captioning on or off.
IOC has several free short films that you can view in order to get comfortable with the process of selecting and viewing films. Once you are ready to “rent” a film, you will need to pay for the rental on-line and in Euros. Rental costs range from one to five euros. Currently, Mamma Gogo costs 5 Euros, while most of the feature length films are three euros, and short films usually one euro.
What is the current exchange rate between the Euro and Canadian or US currency? Several currency exchange calculators can be found on the web with a quick Google search. Using one of these on-line converters at the time of this writing, three euros were worth $4 US, which is a great bargain to begin a journey through Icelandic cinema.