From Iceland — Stockfish 2023: Coming-of-Age Dramas, Sauna Confessions and One Sad Donkey

Stockfish 2023: Coming-of-Age Dramas, Sauna Confessions and One Sad Donkey

Published April 5, 2023

Photo by
Gitte Van der Meersch

Crowded screening rooms, air thick with the  scent of popcorn and the classic conundrum of wanting to be at two films at the same time. Yep, you are at a film festival. Stockfish is all of these things, but…smaller in scale. The 9th edition of the Stockfish Film Festival took place in Reykjavík from March 23rd to April 2nd, and the Grapevine team was there to catch some of the films on offer. Read on for the deets of our favourites.

Girl Picture (original title: Tytöt Tytöt Tytöt)

Coming-of-age dramas are nothing new — a group of teenagers trying to navigate the complexities of adulthood, and it turns out to be a mess. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there (or are still there!) at some point in our lives. But Alli Haapasalo’s “Girl Picture” brings a fresh Finnish twist to this familiar genre. With stunning visuals, beautiful acting, dry Nordic humour and an addictive soundtrack, you won’t leave the cinema long after the credits roll.


Lukas Dhont’s film “Close” has travelled all over the world before finally making its way to Reykjavík. It’s been on our must-watch list for so long, we knew what to expect. And even though the plot is rather simple — it’s an adolescent drama about friendship — the beauty of the film made us shed a tear. We’d watch it again only to see Léo and Rémi run through the dahlia field again. 

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (original title: Savvusanna sõsarad)

This one is a bit tricky — we initially thought we were going to see a documentary about saunas, but what we got was so much more. Anna Hints’ film is an intense portrayal of intimate confessions of a group of women sweating it out in a sauna. The camera work and editing are simply amazing — there are times when you feel as though you’re right there in the sauna with the women. The steam seems to transcend the screen, and you can almost smell the birch whisk. The film provides a cathartic experience, but it’s important to note that it may also unlock old memories and traumas. We do wish there had been a disclaimer or warning beforehand, as some viewers may find it emotionally challenging.

EO (original title: IO)

Donkey EO doesn’t say a word in Jerzy Skolimowski’s film, and yet his performance is so profound that it’s easy to sympathize with him. EO is a keen observer of the world around him — the beauty and cruelty of it, but acts like any donkey would — chews on some hay or his favourite carrots. The plot takes a few unexpected twists, but the closing screen says that no animals were harmed on set. We breathe a sigh of relief, wishing that all humans could be as emotive as EO sometimes is.

Boy from Heaven

“Boy from Heaven,” directed by Tarik Salek, reminds us once again that extreme inequality, corruption and cruelty still exists in some parts of the world. From the very first minutes of the film, you root for Adam and relate to his struggles. Watching this film from Iceland feels surreal. The culture, religion, and even daily life here have nothing in common with almost 30-million resident Cairo, but this only underlines the importance of this film. It’s a bold piece of work. 

The short film competition of the festival was just as interesting, with a few notable winners. Anna Karín Lárusdóttir’s “Felt Cute” took home the prize for best Narrative, while “Keep Fucking Going” by Marie Lydie Bierne won in the Documentary category. The music video for Ásgeir’s “Snowblind” by Erlendur Sveinsson and Alda Ægisdóttir’s “Story of a Blue Girl” also received recognition. We’re excited to see more from these talented directors, and we can’t forget to mention Dronefest, the band with no album but a hilarious documentary that deserves a watch. Until next time, Stockfish!

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