From Iceland — Uncommon Threads: What’s the connection between needlework and revolution?

Uncommon Threads: What’s the connection between needlework and revolution?

Uncommon Threads: What’s the connection between needlework and revolution?

Published September 8, 2016

Parker Yamasaki
Photo by
Movie Stills

With a title like ‘Yarn: The Movie’, it is not difficult to discern what Compass Films’ latest documentary is going to be about. So let’s start with what it is not about.

Harmonic Motion Aerial Yarn

‘Yarn’ is not a historical piece. The filmmakers came up with the idea during a discussion over “what would be the next ‘trend,’” director Una Lorenzen explains, “and somewhere knitting came up.” The film focuses on four artists from different countries, each chosen for her alternative approach to needlework. “The main aim was to make a colorful and fun international journey that gives a glimpse into the ‘other’ sides of knitting and crocheting,” Una says, which leads us to another thing that ‘Yarn’ is not.

Part of the knitwork

‘Yarn’ is not territorial. While ultimately it is a story about community on a global scale, the filmmakers are careful not to come off as if they tried to represent any one specific group. Even though their subject is usually intricately tied to the historical traditions of a society, especially here in Iceland, Una insists that “the movie is not representing the Icelandic yarn or textile art community in any way. Same goes for the Polish, Japanese or Swedish community—we explore the way they use their medium while travelling the world.”

The film was shot in eleven countries and has had screenings in eight countries, so far. “Now that the film is being distributed we are connecting even more with the yarn communities across the world,” says co-producer Þorður Jónsson, continuing: “Many of our screenings have been initiated by the communities themselves, and we’re getting more requests to see the film daily. It’s such a wonderful feeling of gratitude after having worked on this film for three years.”

Tinna Thorvaldar Stars

The coziest vandalism

“We had a really wonderful encounter in Austin, Texas this year at SXSW,” co-producer Heather Millard tells us. “The local yarn community rallied together to yarn bomb the cinema facade for our premiere, it was such a lovely and spontaneous installation.” Before the premiere began, however, the city busted the shady yarn behaviour and forced them to take it down. “It didn’t impact the screening at all,” Heather insists. “We still had a full house and some extra buzz because of the event.”

In fact, the cozy act of vandalism encouraged the group to host more event-based screenings. During the film’s opening weekend at Bíó Paradís they have coordinated with Kvennaathvarfið (the Women’s Shelter) and Konukot (the Women’s Homeless charity) to host three knit-along screenings. Viewers are encouraged to bring their needles and hooks to the cinema and craft items to donate to the shelters.

Mermaid Olek

Knit is lit

The film is steeped in pressing social issues, especially regarding femininity and the role of females in the art world. “Olek,” one of the film’s subjects, “is using this energy to disrupt the artworld that she calls ‘sexist,’” says Una, “and Tinna is using it to fight for women’s rights by taking it to the streets.”

Each artist struggles in her own way, and through it proves her dedication. Whether it’s social roadblocks like sexism or city authorities casting them coldly away from their craft, Una says that one of the greatest things she learned from this film is that “the artists don’t care about people’s perception because they are too inspired, too intrigued to keep from creating their work for different reasons.” This is not a film about your grandmother’s inspiring doily collection.

‘Yarn’ is a film about art, politics, comfort and change. It is a film about a global community of visionaries and creators, of people who honor the mastery of a craft, are dedicated and skilled workers, and are all woven together by one common… yeah, you see where this is going.

Yarn: The Movie opens at Bío Paradís on September 9 at 18:00. It will run every night until September 13. 


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