INDEPENDENT talks about the finest books of 2015 ‘to to fire the imagination, engage the grey matter and invigorate the spirit over the festive period’. I was happy to notice that amongst the 8 best crime books is the Icelandic novel Snowblind by Ragnar Jónasson.
‘Icelander Ragnar Jónasson’s first novel in the UK is Snowblind (Orenda, £8.99, trans. Quentin Bates), drawing inspiration from both the Scandinavian tradition and the classic English crime novel. His subject is the corruption that stretches to the upper echelons of Icelandic politics.’
Snowblind is the first book in a series called Dark Iceland. It’s set in Northern-Iceland, mainly in and around the small town of Siglufjörður. HERE you can read an interesting interview with the author and here’s Ragnar’s Twitter account, where you can get to know him even better and find out how to get hold of his book.
A group of strong, courageous feminists won this year’s Skrekkur, which is an annual talent contest, held by the secondary schools in Reykjavik.
Hagaskoli, a school in the West Side District of Reykjavik, won the prize with their feminist poetry and dance. The piece was written and choreographed entirely by the teenage girls themselves, with Una Torfadóttir, Erna Sóley Ásgrímsdóttir og María Einarsdóttir leading the team.
Icelandic women are a force of nature, fighting for equal rights with all means. The winning piece sort of embodied the recent revolutionary campaigns, like #freeTheNipple and #outload. HERE you can read more about what’s been happening this year.
As I’ve said it before; the fight for equality is far from over, but at least the future is bright when young people are as strong and courageous as this!
The British Film Institute National Archive is brilliant and it’s possible to watch quite a lot of old films online. I’ve watched many precious clips from British film history, like this kiss from 1899. It’s the earliest film kiss held by the BFI National Archive.
‘This story derives from a popular magic lantern slide show and shows a couple in a railway carriage, going into a dark, Freudian tunnel, taking the opportunity to steal a kiss. As the train emerges into the light the couple move apart in a guilty fashion, and although scarcely enough to make your Victorian grandmother blush, it gives the scene its slight frisson of naughtiness. (Bryony Dixon)’
They’re coming down in showers,
The leaves all gold and red;
They’re covering the little flowers,
And tucking them in bed
They’ve spread a fairy carpet
All up and down the street;
And when we skip along to school,
they rustle ‘neath our feet
MOMENTS is an Icelandic play, originally written for radio by Starri Hauksson. It was aired on RUV’s Channel 1 in 2008, to critical acclaim. I listened to it back then and the characters played around in my head for a while afterwards, which is always a good sign.
Now MOMENTS has found its way to London, put on stage by a company made up of young Nordic theatre professionals who have combined their skills and ambitions to create this fantastic piece of authentic Icelandic theatre, performed by an all Icelandic cast, in both English and in Icelandic (with subtitles).
The story follows a young man named Andri who, after a tragic loss, has withdrawn from society and seemingly given up on life. We watch as Andri struggles with the ghosts from the past, as well as his own existence and relationships in the present. The play, set in modern day Reykjavík, addresses the subject of family, loss and forgiveness with brutal honesty, revealing the imperfections and raw vulnerability of the human mind and being.
At the moment I’m incredibly proud of being Icelandic. The reason is the same as often before, that matters regarding LGBTQI+ rights are quite progressive in Iceland. I’ve written about it before, here and here.
Last Sunday the longest running TV program for children, ‘Stundin okkar’, (Our hour) aired an episode in the afternoon, just like most Sundays during the wintertime for more than three decades. However, this episode was different. It featured the Pop artist Paul Oscar as the main guest, touching on the topic of being gay. The conversation was open, very natural and heartfelt. The fact that this was aired on RUV, The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, makes me very happy.
‘Some guys like other guys, some guys like girls. Some girls like guys, some girls like other girls. – You don’t decide what makes your heart beat, it just beats.’
I just watched a very interesting piece on BBC Earth. Melissa Hogenboom travelled to Iceland to search for trolls. It did not go quite the way she expected. This is one of the best programmes I’ve seen about this subject. If you have twelve minutes to spare watching this is a time well spent. Click on the link below to watch.
BFI – London Film Festival is almost over. It’s been fantastic! I can’t decide which film is my favourite, but there are a few I love and some I thoroughly enjoyed watching.
Suffragette is the film I’d been waiting for like a kid waits for Christmas. I wasn’t disappointed, it’s a really good movie and I loved it. Another film I loved is Carol by Todd Haynes with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in the leading roles. It’s a brilliant movie. The Lady in the Van will perhaps be too theatrical for some viewers, but I loved it. Watching the fine acting of Dame Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings was a pleasure and I can say the same about Lily Tomlin, starring in that clever little film Grandma. She’s such a good actress and I enjoyed the film. Trumbo was good, not a perfect film but enjoyable. Great actors again, Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren and John Goodman.
Foodies interested in trying Icelandic food are in for a treat this weekend! If you go to Borough Market I highly recommend you try f.ex. flatbread with smoked trout or lamb, harðfiskur and skyr.
The Icelandic Pantry brings the best of Iceland’s cuisine to London and this is how they introduce it on Facebook:
‘From 7-10 October, Londoners will be able to experience a taste of Iceland when Icelandic farmers, fishermen and other independent food producers will be selling their produce at London’s famous Borough Market for the first time.
“The Icelandic Pantry” marks the first time Borough Market has hosted an Icelandic guest market allowing the primary food producers to travel from Iceland to speak directly with UK shoppers and sell their products.
Shaped by the harsh climate, Icelandic food traditions are inspirational to modern food producers. From blueberry-cured lamb to artisan pastries, the world’s only geothermally produced sea salt to an eco-whey drink blended with wild Iceland moss and Arctic thyme, Icelandic producers are renowned for their unique and innovative approaches to food and drink production.
The country’s different regions are represented with organic lambs fed on angelica to give it a special flavour from West Iceland, hot-smoked mackerel from the East and artisan rhubarb brittle from South Iceland will all be there. Some foods also give an insight into Iceland’s rich history, such as a special flatbread dating from the settlement in the 9th century.
Farmers markets are growing in popularity in Iceland and The Icelandic Pantry is the country’s largest artisanal food fayre, taking place in Reykjavik. Founders, Eirný Sigurðardóttir and Hlédís Sveinsdóttir have brought together 14 of the Icelandic producers to travel to London in October.
Eirny Sigurðardóttir says: “For the first time, Icelandic farmers are traveling to London to sell their products there. The purpose of the trip is not only to introduce Icelandic food culture and products to Brits, but it’s also a learning experience for us, which will help us grow and improve.”
Borough Market’s David Matchett added: “The Icelandic Pantry event is an opportunity for the city’s food lovers to sample and learn about Icelandic cuisine, as well as a chance for local and small scale producers from the country to showcase and talk about what’s special about what they eat to a new UK audience. Icelandic people are among the healthiest on earth and are also one of the most resourceful, living in a harsh and unforgiving environment. They also have a focus on sustainability, which is a way of life rather than an aspiration, so as a market we have a lot of shared values and are excited to welcome them here in October.”’
This morning I had the pleasure of watching the film Suffragette by director Sarah Gavron, written by Abi Morgan.
Suffragette is a drama that tracks the story of the foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State. These women were not primarily from the genteel educated classes, they were working women who had seen peaceful protest achieve nothing. Radicalized and turning to violence as the only route to change, they were willing to lose everything in their fight for equality – their jobs, their homes, their children and their lives. Maud was one such foot soldier. The story of her fight for dignity is as gripping and visceral as any thriller, it is also heart-breaking and inspirational.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film and think it’s fantastic. The cast couldn’t be better; Carey Mulligan is captivating in the leading role of Maud Watts and all the other actors are brilliant. Suffragette is beautifully shot and the set design is perfect. I’ve read reviews by men saying they had difficulties connecting to the film emotionally. They claim that something is lacking in the storyline and the film is too feminist. I don’t understand those remarks and neither did three women I talked to after the press screening. We were all moved by the story and had tears in our eyes.
Meryl Streep plays the role of Emmeline Pankhurst and has been promoting the film, even though she only has one scene. At a press conference this morning she spoke about the need for more female movie critics, and it made me think it’s perhaps not strange how often I don’t agree on which films stand out, or should get more recognition. She said:
‘I went deep, deep, deep, deep into Rotten Tomatoes and I counted how many contributors there were, critics and bloggers and writers. And of those allowed to rate on the Tomatometer, there are 168 women. And I thought, ‘that’s absolutely fantastic.’ If there were 168 men, it would be balanced. If there were 268 men, it would unfair but I’d get used to it. If there were 368, 468, 568…. Actually there are 760 men who weight in on the Tomatometer.’
Meryl also went on the New York Film Critics’ website and found that there were 37 men and only two women.
‘The word isn’t ‘disheartening,’ it’s ‘infuriating.’ I submit to you that men and women are not the same. They like different things. Sometimes they like the same things, but their tastes diverge. If the Tomatometer is slided so completely to one set of tastes, that drives box office in the U.S., absolutely.’