Ben Kingsley and the New Icelandic Star of Cinema - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Ben Kingsley and the New Icelandic Star of Cinema

Ben Kingsley and the New Icelandic Star of Cinema

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We all remember ‘Death and the Maiden,’ the 1994 film starring Ben Kingsley as a suspected war criminal flushed out by one of his victims, played by Sigourney Weaver. Now Kingsley is back as a criminal from another war. But this time, Death has found a new Maiden in An Ordinary Man, which is the opening film at this year’s Stockfish Film Festival.

The story goes that Kingsley personally asked for Hera Hilmar to play his new maiden, this time as an actual maid. Hilmar is short for Hilmarsdóttir, and by now her nationality should be clear. Hera first caused a stir in Iceland at the age of 19 when she starred in the film ‘Veðramót’ (‘Quiet Storm’), for which she was nominated for an Edda award. The film, about juvenile delinquents in Iceland in the 70s, starred a number of children of the Icelandic film-making aristocracy and Hera was no exception. Her father is renowned director and former film school rector Hilmar Oddsson, and her mother is the actress Þórey Sigþórsdóttir.

An ordinary man

Her big break in Iceland came in 2014 when she played a prostitute in ‘Vonarstræti’ (‘Life in a Fishbowl’), dealing with the economic collapse, but meanwhile, she starred in international TV series such as ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ and ‘World Without End.’ She starred alongside Kingsley last year and the two team up again for ‘An Ordinary Man.’

The festival is now in its fifth edition but can trace its roots back to 1978. It is a celebration of cinema lasting for 10 days at the Bíó Paradís cinema, with many of the films and some of the guests fresh from major festivals like Berlinale. There will also be lectures and workshops. One of them is a meeting point for Nordic women in filmmaking. Icelandic female directors have already had a strong showing this year with Ása Hjörleifsdóttir’s excellent debut ‘The Swan.’ And everybody knows that Iceland is a popular location for international filmmakers, popping up in everything from ‘Game of Thrones’ to ‘Star Wars.’ David Broder, a leading UK location manager based in the UK, will participate in a panel.

Polish season

Another major guest is Agnieszka Mandat, the leading actress from Agnieszka Holland’s Spoor, which just won an award at Berlinale and will now be shown here. It is also Poland’s contender for best foreign language Oscar, and one of the pleasing developments in Icelandic theatres of late is the prevalence of Polish film screenings. Poles are by far the biggest immigrant group here, and we are finally getting a taste of their culture. Mainstream Polish films are regularly shown at Bíó Paradís, and now we get the festival fare, too.

Not to be missed is the Sprettfiskur short film competition, which shows the works of up and coming filmmakers, as well as the Works in Progress screening, which shows films already in the making.

But if you want to see Hera Hilmar in the flesh, the opportunity will present itself later today (if you are reading this on the day of publication). She, along with director Brad Silbering, will attend a special Q&A session after the 18.00 screening (Kingsley will not be present, we assume he is tied to a chair somewhere). If you missed that, run on down to Bíó Paradís anyway. You won’t regret it.


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