“We try to be as diverse as possible and pick the best films available,” Ársæll Sigurður Nielsen explains calmly. The actor and producer is the guest coordinator of this year’s Stockfish Film Festival, which seeks to bring together the standouts of last year’s festival circuit. This year, the festival will present 25 films from France to Taiwan, and everything from documentary workshops to Q&As with award-winning directors.
Connections and beginnings
While this is only the fifth iteration of Stockfish, the festival is based off the first Icelandic film festival—called Kvikmyndahátið í Reykjavík—which ran until the early 1990s. “Fríðrik Þór Fríðriksson, who was the founder of Kvikmyndahátið í Reykjavík, is on the board of Stockfish,” says Ársæll, with a grin. Though the festivals are separated by more than a decade, he explains, the two are still intimately connected.
While the format of Stockfish hasn’t changed drastically since its rebirth in 2015, last year the organisers added a new panel to the programme called the Nordic Female Filmmakers Meeting Point. “This will now be an annual thing, and we’re really excited about that,” emphasises Ársæll.
The panel brings together female filmmakers from all Nordic countries to explore pertinent issues in their field. This year’s discussion will be focused around gender equality issues in the Nordic filmmaking industry as well as the general topic of #MeToo. The panel is free and takes place at Bíó Paradís on March 3rd at 18:00.
When asked for specific festival recommendations, Ársæll falls silent. With 25 films on the menu—plus a short film competition—it’s clearly hard for the coordinator to cherry-pick individual flicks. That said, Lars Von Trier’s notorious ‘The House That Jack Built’ is a clear standout. “We are actually screening the uncut director’s cut, so we’ve got five more minutes of gruesome footage,” says Ársæll, with a laugh. “It’s currently the highest selling film at Stockfish.”
Other than this controversial pick, Ársæll recommends Luis Ortega’s ‘El Angel’, which documents the life of Argentine serial killer Carlitos Robledo Puch, and Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego’s ‘Birds Of Passage’, a Columbian, Danish, and Mexico co-production detailing a Wayuu indigenous family’s travails in the weed business.
Best of the best
“There’s also ‘The Raft’, which is very interesting,” says Ársæll. The documentary, made by Marcus Lindeen, captures a scientific experiment where five women and men journeyed across the Atlantic by raft. “People started to show their true colours and there were a love of love/hate relationships,” he explains with a grin.
But, as Ársæll emphasises time and time again, each film selected represents the best of last year’s circuit and was hand-picked by Stockfish’s guild due to its excellence. “Ten films have a representative coming for a panel or Q&A, which is a record,” he says. “We have an Oscar nomination, a Golden Bear winner, a Goya award nominee, and more. These are really the best films available.”
Info: Stockfish runs from March 1st-11th at Bíó Paradís. Single films are 1,500 ISK; a four-film pass is 4,800 ISK; a full festival pass is 10,900 ISK. You can buy tickets here.