‘The County,’ the latest film directed by our cover star Grímur Hákonarson, raises hard questions, not only about Iceland’s business mentality, but also about the status of things when it comes to farmers in Iceland. The film attacks a rotten culture that Icelanders have in some ways not addressed for a long time and is still blooming in our society in some form or another.
In short, the movie tells the story of Inga, an Icelandic farmer, who finds herself in a tough spot when tragedy knocks on her door. Amid her sorrow, Inga finds a channel for her anger by attacking a local business that disguises itself as a cooperative, but has actually turned its back against the ideals on which it was founded, and is now driven by profit for the few, at the expense of the hard working farmers in the county.
The co-op in Grímur’s movie, Kaupfélag Erpsfirðinga, is based on a real company and he is not trying to disguise it very well. In truth, it’s not really about one county; it’s about the entire country.
The co-op’s fortune is founded on monopoly and the fear of some vague threat that competition from another company will take everything away from them.
This is a real debate that has been ongoing in Iceland, often grounded in nasty populist rhetoric, especially when talking about the European Union or asylum seekers. But it also reflects a hard truth about Icelandic farmers and their fear of big bad EU regulations—like opening the market to the import of unfrozen meat products—while they barely survive within the closed Icelandic system, which allows monopolies to ensure a handful of people are always getting richer.
Hopefully, ‘The County’ will create a new platform for debate, and get people thinking that something has to change, not only with how Icelandic businesses often monopolize an industry—which is incredibly damaging for consumers and farmers alike—but also, that there is something rotten in a system where farmers and producers fail to make ends meet.
This has to change, and Grímur’s new film may be the catalyst for a sensitive national debate.
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