After wrapping up in Reykjavík, the Shorts&Docs festival took to the road, journeying all the way to the hamlet Höfn í Hornafirði in southeast Iceland. In a lovely small Höfn cinema called Sindrabær, twenty-five films from the festival were to be screened for locals over the course of a single Saturday.
Jumping at the chance to tag along, my friend and I set off in a car full of films, refreshments, cameras and people. Festival press officer and Höfn native Brynja Dögg Friðriksdóttir began telling us stories about her hometown, which is actually partially built on an old landfill. The town’s name translates to “harbour,” and it is traditionally a fishing village, which also thrives on tourism today.
It somehow felt appropriate that our little car full of films was making its way to an area in Iceland that has featured in a number of feature films like ‘Tomb Raider,’ James Bond classics ‘A View To A Kill’ and ‘Die Another Day, ‘Batman Begins’ as well as the TV series ‘Game of Thrones.’
Glaciers and geothermal hot tubs
Four hours from Reykjavík, we made our fist stop at Vatnajökull glacier to see Jökulsárlón, the glacier lagoon. We got out of the cramped car to stretch our legs, and were greeted by a flock of seals swirling around the lagoon. Brynja Dögg—who used to work at the lagoon—gave us a personal guided tour, apparently well in practice after all of these years.
“You might notice that some icebergs in the lagoon are bluer than others,” Brynja told us. “That’s because they have been underwater. The water fills the cracks of the icebergs, which gives them this appearance.”
“The lagoon,” she said, “it’s always changing.”
In the car Brynja Dögg continued to tell us about glacial areas, and twenty kilometres outside of Höfn we stopped at another one called Hoffellsjökull. Surrounded by great nature, a cute little outhouse and an outdoor shower, we got a chance to dip into geothermal hot tubs located at the foot of the glacier.
Deep-fried hot dogs at Kelabúð
When we finally arrived to Höfn on Friday night, we were feeling pretty hungry. By the harbour we found a diner apparently famous for their deep-fried hot-dogs—called Kelabúð. The owners, who have run the shop since 1991, were fortunately both there late and welcomed us to eat.
“I’ve never tasted this hot dog,” said owner Hrafnkell Ingólfsson, better known as Keli. “But our customers love it. They say it’s the best hot dog in the world.”
Excited about tomorrow’s events, we checked ourselves into Hotel Höfn for a good night’s sleep.
Enough stones to fill a swimming pool
Before the festival started on Saturday, we couldn’t resist checking out the Huldusteinn Rock Museum. A sign on the front door read, “Call us if you want to enter the museum,” but luckily the door suddenly opened up, and a cheerful lady invited us in.
She turned out to be Vigdís Vigfúsdóttir who, along with her husband, had collected every rock in the museum. A few years ago they bought an old swimming pool and transformed it into a museum. Viewing the colourful collection in this very strange setting was both brilliant and hilarious, and it seemed to be without a doubt one of the most ambitious collections in Iceland. “People are welcome here all the time,” Vigdís sais, “just call us!”
Screening day par excellence
After a lovely lunch at Kaffihornið restaurant, we rushed to Sindrabær cinema to prep the screenings for the day and night ahead. The programme consisted of Icelandic shorts, Polish shorts and various documentaries. The atmosphere was filled with excitement when the first guests arrived for the first screening of the day. A lot of smiling faces came out of the room, and some stayed for the next show as well. All in all around forty people came, which the Shorts&Docs organisers considered a great turnout.
At around eight o’clock we took a short break from the screenings to eat dinner at Humarhöfnin, a local restaurant specializing in various lobster dishes. Höfn was referred to as the lobster capital of Iceland in every brochure we had seen, so we were excited to taste and experience a nice dinner while in town. Every summer the locals put on a Lobster Festival, and this restaurant was formally opened during this festival in 2007. The place is known for serving whole lobsters and is located by the harbour with a view over the shipyard.
Festival Director Heather Millard said that they plan on taking the festival to more rural areas next year. After enjoying the best lobster we have ever had, we finished the night off by attending the 22:00 screening.