While rushing looking for bus stop #6 I hoped to find a group of women that, like me, were arriving almost too late. Instead, a sea of confused tourists cramped the narrow sidewalk. As I was close to reaching for my phone to plead to my soon-to-be travel partners to come back, I heard an Aussie accent exclaim, “I believe we’re missing one.”
I was the one missing, and Nara Walker, the Managing Director for the Reykjavík Feminist Film Festival, welcomed me into the FEM Golden Circle Trip. This excursion was a rainbow-coloured joint-(ad)venture between Pink Iceland and the festival. “Pink Iceland and the Festival Director Lea Aevars worked on the schedule and put forward stories of women that have built the herstory of this nation,” says Nara “it was an honour to take this journey with so many talented women and to step where others had laid their feet before us.”
The Reykjavík Feminist Film Festival invited some of their guests to get to know Iceland outside of the city walls in a seven-hour trip into the beautiful southern country-side with a feminist twist. “We at RVK Feminist Film Festival wanted to bring our special guests outside of the city’s parameters,” says Nara “in an effort to ignite inspiration within their hearts, and to take a piece of Iceland home with them.”
I had the chance to share this journey with great talents like Pimpaka Towira, Film Director and Producer, Gabrielle Kelly, Scriptwriter, filmmaker and educator, Marina Richter, Film Critic/Writer, Wendy Guerrero,from the Geena Davis Institute and President of Programming for the Bentonville Film Festival and Alexia Muiños Ruiz, Deputy Director EWA Network, among others.
The car was warm, and everyone had yet to be fully awake. However, as the engines started to growl, a jolly voice came from the driver’s seat. It was our guide, Sunna, from Pink Iceland. She promptly told us our first stop would be Gullfoss, a famous waterfall southeast of Reykjavík, where a lot is to be told about how women have been historical badasses in Iceland.
On the way to our first stop, introductions were sprouting fast and lively. As I tried to eavesdrop on all the conversations at once, I learned I was surrounded by film nerds from all over the world: Finland, Spain, Austria and more. We were finally escaping the long morning darkness; the sun shined and the bus went quiet. The surprisingly good weather lit up the fresh snow in the mountains and fields, and all you could hear was sporadic comments in awe of the freshly awakened southern landscape. I had it pretty clear by then that no matter who I talked to on that bus, a great story could be told.
We were finally arriving at the golden waterfall, Gullfoss. On the way there, Sunna introduced us to Sigríður Tómasdóttir, who some believe to be the first environmentalist of Iceland. In the 19th century, an Englishman tried to buy Gullfoss from her father in order to transform the site into a hydroplant. Sigríður, fighting for the preservation of her most beloved place, got together some savings and walked all the way to Reyjavík, which took her a week, where she found a lawyer who successfully helped her get the contract annulled.
Coffee, tea, and pieces of chocolate surprised the travelers upon arrival. Sunna opened the trunk and shared the hot and sweet treats. She then led us to the statue in honour of Sigríður, “Doesn’t she remind you of some other tough Scandinavian environmentalist girl?” she asked. Everyone smiled as Greta Thunberg’s name was mumbled. Soon, everyone scattered in groups or by themselves to explore at their will.
After snapping all the due panoramic pictures and smiling selfies, we regrouped by the van and set off to Geysir. The energy inside the bus was at its all-time high, and you could hear the travelers exchanging e-mail and thoughts. I got to chatting with Satu and Anna-Sofia, two young Finish actresses, as they told me about how the clear blue colour flooding the landscape reminded them of home, calling it ‘The blue hour’.
We got to Geysir and Sunna explained to us that it should erupt about every 7 minutes and advised us to run free and explore. As all the women dispersed, my goal became to capture one eruption before my hands could freeze.
We were back on the road. Just before we left, Sunna smiled and confided to me, “They are really into the horses, so I’m gonna stop for a minute or two.” On the way to the next unknown stop, and the heads started to bow in tiredness, the sun kept shining outside and all one could hear was the clicks of cameras and some deep sighs of contemplation. The energy shifted once we stopped in front of a group of almost too well behaved Icelandic horses. One by one the women jumped out of the van and ran like children towards the fence.
Before heading for our final stop in Þingvellir National Park, we were led to a small patch of sand where a boat lay upside down and a chair sat at the tip of a tiny harbour. In the distance, the Hekla volcano stared back at our delighted faces as Sunna explained the landscape. We were in Laugarvatn, contemplating the most highly active volcanic area in the country. While some of us ran to the mysterious chair, and others investigated a thin stream of hot water, our lovely guide surprised us with two hands full of champagne glasses brimming with prosecco.
Once the bottles were empty, Þingvellir National Park was on the horizon. As we stood watching over some of the most important historical sights of Iceland, Sunna’s voice grew passionate telling us about the history behind the place, from the first parliament that stood to the drowning pools. There, she told us the story of the first female president in the world, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, catching the curiosity of other passing by tourists that hesitantly stopped to listen to her speak.
We arrived in Reykjavík, astonished and exhausted, with smiles on our faces and a bunch of new friends on Facebook. The Reykjavík Film Festival happened between 16 and the 19th of January. Its first edition aimed to celebrate and open doors for female film directors and to play a role in equalizing the gender deficit in the film industry. They collaborated with Pink Iceland, the Icelandic LBTQIA+ 21st-century travel agency, which offers the queerest adventures in the country.
At the end of the day, we all had to agree with what Nara has to say “We came as individuals from across the globe, women who tell stories that give voice to others, this day was beautifully empowering.” she confessed.
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