From the year 2010, the number of Icelandic movies directed by women has been slowly falling. It currently stands at 6%—a substantial decrease from the 21% recorded between 1990 and 1999, RÚV reports.
The data comes from Statistics Iceland, who calculated that between 1990 and 1999, seven out of every 33 Icelandic movies were directed by women. Between 2010 and 2017, this figure dropped significantly to only four out of 65.
According to Laufey Guðjonsdóttir, the Director of the Icelandic Film Centre, the main issue can be found at production level. Movies that are made by women, she says, are harder to market than movies made by men. Audiences seem to be attracted to them long after they’ve premiered, make it imperative for production houses to increase their efforts when it comes to film launches.
Another solution could be implementing gender quotes within the cinema industry in the hope that this would correct the gender imbalance. In particular, Dögg Mósesdóttir and Helga Rakel Rafnsdóttir, who are on the board of Women in Film and Television in Iceland, have been looking at Sweden and Norway as models to emulate. “Swedish research recently showed that when you implement these kinds of quotas, mediocre men are out of the game, while skilled women make the cut,” Dögg told Rás 2. In Norway, a similar system was successfully implemented, only to see the number of women in film decreasing again once the quota system was dismantled.
A lack of role models
In a recent interview with The Grapevine, Icelandic filmmaker Ása Hjörleifsdóttir explained that a lack of female role models for young girls who want to pursue a career in the movie industry can also be a factor, whether in directing, editing or producing. She added: “I also want to add that I feel very lucky to be starting my career now and not twenty years ago. Thanks to the decades of battles fought by my foremothers in this industry, more money is being put into films made by women. I’m very aware that my generation of female filmmakers is reaping the benefits of this long battle.”
In the past few years, Icelandic movies made and directed by women have proven just as successful as the work of their male counterparts. Ása’s poetic saga ‘The Swan’ and Ísöld Uggadóttir’s drama ‘Andið Eðlilega’ received awards at the Toronto and Sundance Film Festivals, with classics such as ‘Stella í Orlofi’ becoming iconic in the minds of Icelandic people.
Helga Rakel and Dögg agree that positive changes within the industry have taken place, but there is still a lot of work to do. “So far, we haven’t received any grant application from women, for instance—not for a documentary, nor a short movie or a full length one,” says Dögg, adding that for such a clearly systematic problem, the true solution can only be a total change in mindset.