From Iceland — Cool Off With Cool Cuts

Cool Off With Cool Cuts

Published July 7, 2014

The best of Icelandic cinema with English subtitles

Cool Off With Cool Cuts
Photo by
Magnús Andersen

The best of Icelandic cinema with English subtitles

In the four years since Bíó Paradís opened, the cinema has become a hub for Icelandic independent films as well as others that would not be shown elsewhere. In 2010, Programme Director Ása Baldursdóttir started ‘Cool Cuts,’ a summer series of Icelandic films with English subtitles. Though certainly a boon for tourists interested in Icelandic cinema, she also believes it is an important addition to Reykjavík’s cultural landscape.

What was the idea behind creating Cool Cuts?
Our idea was to strengthen the visibility of Icelandic filmmaking to English speakers with the best Icelandic films. We think it’s a great addition for the tourists, as well as the locals. We have access to films with English subtitles, even ones that are still travelling in film festivals.

So it’s aimed more towards tourists whose first language is English?
Yes, because they want to see local films. Iceland is a small film community—we aren’t making hundreds of films per year—but we try offer a wide range of our great film culture in our programme.

How many Icelandic films have been made throughout the years?
A little less than 200 feature films.

Is that because film is a relatively new industry in Iceland?
Sort of. Regular filmmaking started in 1980 and before that there were not many people making them. Movies were first shown here in 1903 and the first full-length Icelandic film was made in 1949 (‘Milli fjalls og fjöru’ or “Between Mountain And Shore”).

Cool Cuts is now in its third year. How has it been received over the years?
Very well, although we can’t advertise like there’s no tomorrow. Instead, we rely on word of mouth and that locals will point it out to others because they like people to watch their nation’s films.
Who usually comes to watch Cool Cuts?
It’s mostly tourists, but Icelanders come too. They really appreciate that they can see a film that they perhaps missed seeing in theatres. Those who aren’t fluent in Icelandic come too, but it’s mostly tourists. I think they come to see our culture.

How are the films selected?

When selecting we try to have a variety of genres in the programme. We are lucky to have a large pool of films to choose from. For example, the current six films include a comedy like ‘Of Horses and Men’ and a drama like ‘Metalhead’ mixed in with highlights from other eras and genres.

The films ‘101 Reykjavík’ and ‘Heima’ are being shown again this year. Do you try and not repeat films or is that on purpose?
That’s on purpose. First of all, ‘101 Reykjavík’ is one of the most requested films by tourists. Even though Kaffibarinn (featured in the film) screened it three times in 2012, it didn’t decrease the demand. Tourists and foreigners have some fascination with how the film is set in and mirrors the culture of the real 101 Reykjavík.

‘Heima’ is also popular because Sigur Rós are still active, high profile musicians. We want to keep screening this film, not because it’s a nostalgic film, but because it’s still very relevant. The film also showcases their 2006 tour around Iceland. For English speakers and tourists, they enjoy seeing the film because of the landscapes shown on screen, as if the band is giving them a tour of their home.

What about adding more films?
We can always consider that, but the reason for six is because we have three screening rooms, room three being the home of Cool Cuts. Because we have three screenings of Cool Cuts a day, it fits well with the regular rotation of films. Still, we are open to adding more films into the programme because there are so many great films we have not shown yet.

Which films do most people most people want to see?
The attendance is pretty much the same for all of them, but the more current films tend to attract more people.

Have any films been total flops?
No, not really. We’re sure to only pick the best of Icelandic cinema.

Can people see these Icelandic films elsewhere?

Yes, the older ones are on DVD, but watching them at home is not the same as watching at the theatre. We have the best digital quality here and a new digital sound system. This is highly important for films made for the cinema. Not only for doing justice to its visual and audio splendour, but also for the true film experience.

What is the ‘true film experience?’
It’s the magic of cinema, which is the human need to be social, to have experiences with others, like sitting in a large, dark room with strangers, all watching the big screen at the cinema. That is magic you can’t recreate at home.


The Cool Cuts programme features the following six films.

They will be shown from June 12 to August 31  at Bíó Paradís.

Of Horses and Men (2013)
A series of vignettes revolving around rural Icelanders’ relationships with horses and each other. The variety in stories keeps the theme from getting predictable; one minute you may be watching a serious drama, the next, an uproarious comedy.

Metalhead (2014)
Þorbjörg Helga Dýrfjörð plays Hera, a young woman who became a metalhead after the death of her brother. Though the years have passed, the grief of her brother’s death continues to haunt the family as they are unable to move on. Þorbjörg won Best Actress at the Edda Awards for her role as Hera.

Gnarr (2010)
This documentary recounts the thrilling tale of Jón Gnarr’s election, from the economic crash of 2008 to him becoming the mayor of Reykjavík. Perhaps now that he has just finished his only term, it is a good time to revisit this true feel-good story, and remember that when things are rough, laughter can shed light on even the darkest of moments.

Heima (2006)
“Heima” literally translates to home. It is a fitting title for Sigur Rós’s unannounced tour of Iceland. It is not just a musical journey, but an intimate tour of their home country through eyes fresh off a world tour.

101 Reykjavík (2000)
Anyone living in or having visited 101 Reykjavík will recognise every place in this film. Although you could play “spot the bars I like,” the tale of Hlynur’s isolated world is far more interesting with its drama, romance, and homecoming to the world.

eldfjall still
Volcano (2011)
Sixty-seven-year old Hannes is having a rough time. He’s not close to his family, has no friends, and his wife may as well not exist. After a series of events, he realises though that he has to change his life to help a loved one. To do so, he has to confront his past and present, and change it for the better.

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