From Iceland — A Summer To Remember

A Summer To Remember

Published June 7, 2024

A Summer To Remember
Photo by
Atli Freyr Steinsson
Supplied stills

Rakel Andrésdóttir’s animated film wins the brand-new award for short films at Skjaldborg

The screening room at Skjaldborgarbíó in Patreksfjörður erupts with laughter as the credits roll for Kirsuberjatómatar (Cherry Tomatoes). Despite its naive, amateurish nature, the inexplicably funny film goes on to win the Skjaldborg Documentary Film Festival’s debut award for documentary shorts later that night. A one-person creation from start to finish, director Rakel Andrésdóttir explains, “This is a love letter to little Rakel, who was miserable.” 

One artist, many roles

From working on the scenography and props for the metal ballet Satanvatnið, to collaborating on music videos and now building a portfolio in animation, it’s difficult to confine Rakel’s artistic endeavours to a single label. “I think it’s just very common for this little scene here,” she says. “It’s very easy to do different things.” 

“I studied visual arts at LHÍ [Iceland University of the Arts],” Rakel explains. “I was also doing music there and lots of other things, which is very common for that department.” After graduation, she relocated to Prague for a year to study animation. 

Kirsuberjatómatar is a three-minute animated film about the summer Rakel spent at Brún, her grandparents’ cherry tomato farm in Flúðir. Though, just less than an hour away from Reykjavík, the then 14-year-old felt like she was so far from her normal life and friends that she was miserable. 

“This is a love letter to little Rakel, who was miserable.”

The film is entirely Rakel’s work of art from start to finish, with her name credited as the director, editor, producer, cinematographer and sound designer. Having completed the project within a mere week and a half, the director didn’t take it too seriously. “I felt silly to put my name everywhere, but it was required to list someone for each role,” she explains with a chuckle. “It was funny to see ‘Rakel’ as producer and sound designer among other things.”

Though her animated film portfolio currently consists of just two other pieces — her graduation project and a love letter to an ex — animation remains a key focus area for Rakel. She is currently employed at an animation studio, working on an upcoming children’s series due for release in a year or two, while also pursuing her own personal animation projects.

Even as she adjusts to winning the prestigious award, Rakel is already looking ahead. In September, she’ll host a three-week open studio at Ásmundarsalur, showing visitors the process of animation for her new project.

Unexpected success

Having first heard about Skjaldborg on the radio, Rakel knew she wanted to attend in 2024. This motivated her work on the film. “I wanted to push myself to do something on my own,” she says. “Sometimes it’s hard after doing something for somebody else nine to five. I really wanted to push myself to just do something simple and fun.”

The artist jokingly admits that once she submitted the film, she instantly regretted it. But now, having secured the festival’s first-ever short film award — the Skjaldan — those second thoughts have evaporated.

“I was a little bit tipsy. I thought there’s no way I’m gonna win it,” Rakel admits. “I was very surprised.”

Photo by Atli Freyr Steinsson

In addition to the Skjaldan statuette, Rakel received a high-speed hard drive from Sensor Films and 250,000 ISK in equipment rental from KUKL. Though mostly working with just a tablet on her projects, she hopes to use the prize money for future ventures.

“It was my first time at Skjaldborg, but I think this is my favourite festival. It was so much fun,” she says. “I thought so even before I won, so I’m not just saying it.”

Rakel’s festival highlights include the lively festival crowd, the opportunity to chat with established filmmakers and discuss potential collaborations. But she also underscores the impressive programme. “There were so many amazing films there. I really had a hard time deciding which I like best,” she says.

Throwback to one miserable summer

Growing up, Rakel loved to scribble in the margins of her notebooks. Now, as an adult, she still carries a sketchbook and enjoys putting thoughts to paper in the form of doodles.

“I am a big fan of animated documentaries. It’s a very niche genre but there are some really good ones,” she says, adding that animation normally demands a significant time investment. With Kirsuberjatómatar, however, she wanted to create something quicker and more spontaneous.

Still from Kirsuberjatómatar

“I appreciate having memories that we don’t have pictures of and drawing them,” she says. “Sometimes they are even more true.”  

Indeed, Rakel doesn’t have photos from her summer spent working on the tomato farm, but she kept a diary documenting that period.

“My family has tomato eating competitions. Now that I say it out loud, maybe this isn’t normal.”

“I didn’t hate the farm,” she clarifies. “I was just a hormonal teenager. I really wanted to just be with my friends.” She recalls feeling alone at the farm, despite attempts to hang out with local kids who were at a slightly different teenage stage. “I was very shy and uncomfortable. They were more boy-crazy and excited about bras.” Rakel adds that teenage years are simply “a horrible period” in general.

“I actually love cherry tomatoes,” she admits, saying that as a kid, she only wanted to eat tomatoes and they remain her favourite today. “My family has tomato eating competitions,” she shares, quickly adding with a chuckle, “Now that I say it out loud, maybe this isn’t normal.” 

Still from Kirsuberjatómatar

In Rakel’s mind, that summer on the farm was a dreadful three-month stretch, though she now suspects the timeframe was likely exaggerated by her teenage mind. She explains that her mother has a robust work ethic and sending Rakel to labour on the farm was her way of attempting to instil that same virtue in her daughter. “Children from Reykjavík used to be sent to the countryside to learn work ethic. I joke that that was probably the last kid who had to do that.”

On the one hand, it might have worked. After picking cherry tomatoes all summer, Rakel earned 25,000 ISK and, unlike most teenagers, she didn’t spend it on candy or clothes. “I probably just put it in a savings account,” she admits.

The farm experience left such a strong impression that Rakel vowed to never take on that type of job again. “I’ve never worked at the tomato farm again,” she admits with a laugh. “I begged my mom to work in Reykjavík after that summer.”

Keep your eyes peeled for screening opportunities — rumour has it Kirsuberjatómatar could be coming to the big screen in August or September.

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