Ljósmál / Language of Light - 2019

Í fyrsta sinn er vitasaga landsins rakin í einstakri heimildamynd. Yfir vitum hvílir dulúð þar sem þeir standa í stórbrotnu umhverfi á mörkum lands og sjávar og laða að sér fólk hvaðanæva úr heiminum. Þeir geyma sögu um það hvernig Ísland varð númtímasamfélag, fanga ímyndunaraflið og eru endalaus innblástur um fortíð og framtíð.

For the first time the history of lighthouses in Iceland is traced in a unique documentary. Over them rests mystery as they stand in a magnificent setting at the boundaries of land and sea, attracting people from all over the world. They hold a story about how Iceland came to be contemporary society in engineering and architecture, but also capturing the imagination and being an endless inspiration from the past to the future.

Mirgorod, í leit að vatnssopa / Mirgorod, searching for a sip of water - 2018

Á meðal viðmælenda eru flóttamenn frá átaksvæðunum í Donetsk, listamaður og borgarstjórinn sem rekur gæði vatnsins í borginni sinni og hvaða þýðingu það hefur til að láta hlutina ganga. Áhorfendur rekast líka á hóp fólks undirbúa útihátíð inni í skóg og reka nefið inn í leikhús.

Among visitors and interviewees are refugees from the Donetsk region, an artist and the city‘s mayor who explains the quality of the water and its significance for the city in order to continue. The audience come also across a group of people preparing an outdoor festival in the woods and have a glimpse into a theater.

Norð-Vestur / North West – 2010

"'Íslandssaga einsog á að segja hana". ÓHT, RUV.

"Nær vel utanum þann mikla kjark sem íbúarnir sýndu á ögurstundu þegar allir Íslendingar urðu sem einn maður". RT, DV

"Kvikmynd sem er svo áhrifamikil verður ekki lýst í stuttu máli". Stakkur, bb.is

"Gerð af miklum skilningi og nærfærni". IJ, DV

"Höndlar efnið smekklega og sérhver sem birtist í myndinni heldur reisn sinni". BG. Morgunblaðið

"North West ... excavates a recent history of human tragedy and while doing so captures the spirit of the north, the true spirit of the north us South westerners can only pretend to possess. And that’s why the film is worth watching ...There truly are no words." JB, Iceland Review.

Norð Vestur rekur atburðarrás björgunaraðgerða á Flateyri eftir að mikið snjóflóð féll á bæinn aðfaranótt 26. október árið 1995. Áður en aðstoð barst Flateyringum voru þeir einir í nærri fimm klukkustundir að leita, finna og grafa upp nágranna sína, vini og ættingja - og skipuleggja aðgerðir. Margar hindranir voru í vegi björgunarsveita úr nágrannabyggðum og af landinu öllu, bæði veðurofsi og snjóflóðahætta. Snjóflóðið reyndist eitt mannskæðasta snjóflóð á Íslandi og markaði árið 1995 tímamót í hamfarasögu landsins, en alls fórust 35 manns í flóðum það ár.Þessi einstæði atburður er mörgum í fersku minni, en frá honum segja yfir 40 einstaklingar; heimafólk frá Flateyri, aðstandendur, björgunar- og fjölmiðlafólk og fjöldi þjóðþekktra Íslendinga. Einnig segja sögu sína einstaklingar sem lentu í flóðinu og voru grafnir undir snjó í allt að níu klukkustundir.

North West tells the amazing story of one of the biggest rescue operation Iceland has seen after a huge avalanche hit a small fishing village, Flateyri, 26. of October 1995. Before an outside help reached Flateyri the locals were on their own during the first five hours, searching and digging up their neighbors, friends and relatives and organizing the rescue. Many obstacles, such as storm and further danger of avalanches, were on the way as rescue teams nation wide, helicopters and ships tried to find their way to Flateyri. This snow avalanche was on of the deadliest in Iceland’s history, and the 1995 is memored as being the most costly in human lives in recent, local history of natural disasters. This story is told by rescuers, media people, the former president of Iceland, and survivors who some were under the snow for 9 hours.

Stikla - Teaser North West I
Stikla - Teaser North West II


The Night We Never Forget

March 21, 2012

In modern society, the definition of old would be a personal recollection of the World War II years in Iceland, or of the Geysir plane crash of 1950.

In my old age, the definition of old will no doubt be held to personal recollection of the deadly avalanches of 1994-1995 in the West Fjords. In hindsight, I suspect the political bullshit of the bank crisis years will seem of little importance when future historians dig through old documents and research documentaries like66/23 North West, The Day of the Avalanche.

Future generations may find the rescue operations surprisingly primitive. The reliance on search dogs and the use of shovels in digging out men, women and children buried in the snow, some to live and others not meant for this world.

The film was released in 2010; 15 years after two of the most catastrophic avalanches reported in documented history of natural disasters in Iceland, devastated in part the small village of Flateyri.

Photo: Icelandic Film Centre.

The first avalanche in 1995 struck in the late hours of January 16 and killed 14 people, both men and women of all ages, a number significantly high considering the overall population of the small isolated village.

The second avalanche devastated the community of Flateyri in the wee hours of October 26, at 4:07 am. To the locals, winter had not yet announced its arrival to the small village, although it had been snowing for three days and the weather was by no standards good, even in the eyes of the locals who knew bad weather all too well.

In North West, film clips and photographs are brought back to life through the narrative of survivors who still recall the hours spent buried in the snow under the debris, the survivors waiting for news of loved ones and the rescuers who looked for survivors, as well as news reporters and others involved in the operation.

The focus is on the Flateyri avalanche but the lessons learned in the first catastrophic avalanche helped rescue workers and locals alike to both survive and respond correctly to the situation.

For Icelanders old enough to recall waking up to the horrific news, the film brings back the frost in our veins as we waited for news. These were the days of dial-up Internet connections and people relied on radio, newspapers and TV news to report the latest news to an anxious nation.  

I remember this event as if it happened last week. I remember how I felt. I remember how each time a person was found alive we rejoiced and each time a body was discovered we grieved for the community’s loss and perhaps also for the local hero who dug out a friend or family member only to find the spirit eternally asleep.

Photos of survivors and those perished in the deep snow appeared in the newspapers in the days following the event, each with a name, some brothers and sisters, some parents or young lovers who in the minutes and hours before the avalanche struck slept soundly side by side.

It was the first time I recalled CNN and BBC showing Iceland interest.

I was 15 years old at the time and it was the first time in my life I realized just how powerful Icelandic nature is, that it can kill and save lives all at the same time. When it comes alive, its power is sometimes just too awesome for the fragile existence of dwarf-size humans inhabiting the edge of the world.

It was also the first time I realized nature is ruthless in her selection of who lives and who dies and that here in the North, we sometimes depend on her to spare our lives.

All these sentiments came alive as I watched the film but without the sentimentality one could expect from such a documentary. With a smile on her face, a sister who at the age of 11 was buried under debris and snow for 9 consecutive hours, remembers her 19-year-old sister who did not survive, and the loving relationship they shared.

Another survivor who held onto his wife while the avalanche almost buried them with all its force, talks about his neighbors who lost a child.

In the first 15 minutes of the film, the economical growth of the community and the intimate relationship families and friends share with one another and the magnificent surrounding, is introduced to the outsider. As the film comes to an end, this intimacy ties together the beginning and end as the people of Flateyri come together in their time of need.

The resilient people of the West Fjords, whose lives have been intertwined in small communities, isolated from one another, are accustomed to weather conditions, which those of us raised in the mild southwest rarely experience in our lifetime.

The reverence they show Mother Nature and her awesome force, and the bonds they share bathed in the enchanting beauty she possesses, is not so hard to understand. She casts a spell on those who once form bonds with the rough nature that more often than not, is a white desert of steep mountain hills and a narrow flatland on the edge of the sea.

In her time of rage, when a tsunami of snow buried half the village, the residents of Flateyri responded with efficiency as they dug through layer after layer in an attempt to find a neighbor, relative or a friend, perhaps all of the above, while waiting for assistance from nearby communities and the capital city, and hardship while enduring personal grief in the face of an undefeatable foe.

The 3-D simulation by Halldór Bragason, unseen by the public up until now, displays how the avalanche devastated the small town in the northwest with its awesome force, and the snow quickly digested the homes and those within in matters of second.

North West, as it has been short-titled, is a film in which director, scriptwriter and editor Einar Þór Gunnlaugsson excavates a recent history of human tragedy and while doing so captures the spirit of the north, the true spirit of the north us South westerners can only pretend to possess.

And that’s why the film is worth watching. It’s not easy to watch. It’s not the kind of film you watch on a Saturday night before going to bed. It’s not even the Sunday night documentary. If anything it’s the Monday night documentary you watch because something sparked your interest.

There truly are no words. The recollection of the avalanche immediately takes me back to the moment I knew what had happened, the morning I woke up to the horrible news, the day every classroom was glued to the radio and class was dismissed so that we could watch the news with our families.

Whether you’re planning a trip to the West Fjords and want an insight into the history of the region, or if you just want to know the less public side of life in Iceland, North West is worth the 100 minutes.

As an Icelander who remembers October 26 1995, it’s a journey worth taking and for my foreign friends and family, an insight into a region where fortitude and strength prevails.

JB, Iceland Review

Heiðin / Small Mountain, feature – 2008

A Roadmovie with its own character. Susanne Schutz, Die Rheinpfalz.

A typically mordant slice of Icelandic character comedy marbled with warm, inclusive moments ... Einar Thor Gunnlaugsson mines his island's rich sense of the ridiculous to milder effect than some of its forebears, but has a quietly kooky charm ... Derek Elley, Variety.

Yet beneath the feelgood exterior is a darker heart. Albert's brooding anger threatens to overspill into violence and sexual aggression, but it's the unjust destruction of innocence depicted in a chick wrapped in a bag and thrown to its death and a stricken lamb that lingers in the memory ... every detail looks enticingly stunning. Ben HopkinsIcelandonscreen.

The thing is that Einar Thor Gunnlaugsson approaches his subject differently than most other Icelandic directors ... The director skillfully creates an atmosphere, emotions and a story, and continues to develop the art of filmmaking in the country, with fresh approach, courage and stimulates us to reflect. Sigurður Sverrir Palsson's photography gives the film wings. O.Torfason, National Radio 2.

The film becomes both a story of father and son but also a remarkable moving portrait of the countryside people. This is a film that keeps a low profile but is a better and truer profile of Iceland than many of the domestic "big movies" which are most visible. And for the Icelandic filmmaking to flourish we need many films like Small Mountain. A simple story told in a sincere but an amusing way, unpretentious and personal. I.Jokulsson, 24Hours, National Newspaper.

A nicely observed idea which works on many levels of the story. When I say the film is harmless then I mean that it underscores the light humor. For example is Gisli Petur solemn through out but you always know he is a good guy. So the confrontation between him and Emil is quite funny. There the scriptwriter manages to reveal a certain generation's fright of showing emotions ... a special charm. Anna S. Morgunbladid, National Newspaper.

Johann Sigurdarson holds your attention every second he is in sight. J.V.Jonsson DV, National Newspaper.

Small Mountain is a highly appealing blend of stunning Icelandic locations, great characters, quirky comedy, with an undertone of sadness and menace. Haugesund Film Festival.

Stikla / Teaser

Emil is asked to take the ballot box to the local airport, but he misses the plane.

Emil is a nice guy, he is helpful to his friends and neighbors, happy to make a detour to pick up cookies or fix a smoke detector, but he is not so good at communicating with the most important people in his life. Today he is not expecting his son to show up, but is suddenly brought to face his family and his community after he finds himself stuck upon the small mountain. This will be a day to remember.

A slice of life road movie set against the rugged landscape of Iceland. Inspired by the story of Abraham and Isaac.

Original title: Heiðin (aka Small Mountain)

Genre: Dramedy

Writer/director: Einar Thor

DoP: Sigurður Sverrir Palsson

Editors: Einar Thor, Sigurbjorg Jonsdottir

Music: Danny Chang, (composer). Mum, Hafdis Huld

Running time: 96 min.

Format and ratio: 35 mm, 1:85 (25 fps)

Sound: Dolby SR

Original language: Icelandic

Subtitles: English on 35 mm. English, German, French on digital

Release: 2008

Producers: Einar Thor (exec), Danny Chang (co)

An Iceland/UK co-production, backed by The Icelandic Film Centre

Cast: Johann Sigurðarson, Gisli Petur Hinriksson, Olafur S.K. Thorvaldz, Isgerður Elfa Gunnarsdottir, Guðrun Gisladottir, Gunnar Eyjolfsson, Jon Sigurbjornsson, Solveig Arnarsdottir, Birna Hafstein, Snorri Hergill Kristjansson.

Festivals and programs: Haugesund, Norway. Mannheim-Heidelberg, Germany. Tallinn, Estonia. Shanghai, China (Asia premier). Terni, Italy. Kulturhus, Berlin. Minnesota, Minneapolis and Scandinavia House, New York, US. Delhi (IIWFF), India.

Small Mountain on youtube - and on IFC database - Music example here

Download a short interview here

Few words about the film

Lesið dóma á íslensku.

Strong reaction has been seen on the internet from some Icelandic cinema goers to a scene including a slaughtering of a lamb where the film is condemned for 'sacrificing a lamb for a movie'. As stated at the end credit no animals were harmed but this particular scene was shot under guidance of a veterinary and with written approval from appropriate authorities on how the animals were handled. Emotional reaction to the scene is understandable.

The Third Name, feature – 2003

A quiet film about a tense night - Feature Film - Dramedy.

A romantic hoodlum highjacks a boat and demands to speak to his ex-girlfriend, but she has never heard of him.

A low budget one, set in two rooms and a boat over one night, shot in the simple straight forward style of the early film making. This is a character study, observing the post 9/11 atmo and the different cultures we live in. With the characters in the foreground facing a wicked mind, the story comes to a twisted end before dawn. The film was shot on location in Iceland and was the first Icelandic film to seek post production in Russia. Cast and crew list here.

Leitarhundar – A DOGumentary - 1997

Heimildar- og fræðslumynd um leitarhunda (40 mín.- Mynd hefst eftir 1:50 mín)

A very informative and rare documentary about training of rescue dogs. Not to be missed by any dog lover or dog owner who is keen to train.

Framleidd / produced: 1996. Einar Þór Gunnlaugsson. Sýnd á RUV (national TV broadcast), janúar 1997.

English narrator, icelandic interviews (mostly). Enskur þulur, mest íslenskir viðmælendur. No subtitles.


Öll myndin - Full length