This past month, Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson’s third feature film, ‘Under the Tree,’ was nominated for the Orizzonte Prize at the esteemed Venice Film Festival. “It’s a category within the festival that is meant to promote a cross section of the latest developments and trends in international cinema,” Hafsteinn explains. “Usually this means directors that are either starting out in the field or have some particularly unconventional or daring project.”
A Venice world premiere
Due to the strict terms of the festival, the Icelandic premier of the film has been rescheduled for September, once it has made its world premiere in Venice. “Getting this nomination and along with it this setting for the premier of the movie is a fantastic opportunity,” Hafsteinn says. “The Venice festival is one of the most respected film festivals in the world. Being there gives the movie a stamp of approval that will certainly help when it comes to selling and distributing the film, as well as spiking the interests of other festivals.” Another benefit is that nominations such as this ease the pressure for finding funding for future projects. “Financing a film is always a very delicate and complicated process,” he explains. “Getting this sort of attention certainly helps to bolster the CV for grant proposals.”
International Icelandic Cinema
Hafsteinn’s previous movie, ‘Paris of the North,’ was nominated for the Roger Ebert Award at the Chicago Film Festival in 2014, and his first movie, ‘Either Way,’ was remade as a North American production starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch. Getting such international acclaim is an important factor for Hafsteinn to continue his work as an Icelandic director. “Icelandic films are always international projects,” he says. “The Icelandic Film Fund has a strict rule that the fund’s contribution can’t be more than 50% of the entire cost of the film. Getting grants from overseas is inevitable when it comes to securing the rest of the funding. Recently, Icelandic films have been gaining momentum, and we can only hope that they continue to do so. If one Icelandic director is having success internationally it trickles down to everyone else in the business.”
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