Reykjavík Short & Docs

Reykjavík Shorts&Docs festival 2012 – #The price of sex: a documentary

The Reykjavík Shorts&Docs festival finished of with a bang last weekend, for now at least, the plan is to hit the road again to rural areas this summer. The film Price of Sex was screened on the festival in the beginning of May, a documentary about young Eastern European women that have been drawn in to sex trafficking and abuse. Photojournalist and filmmaker Mimi Chakarova, who grew up in Bulgaria, tells the story through a personal investigative journey, going partly undercover in the filming process.

After the screening, there was a panel discussion, led by the journalist Jóhannes Kr. Kristjánsson, about these issues. One of the participants in the panel, Steinunn Gyðu- og Guðjónsdóttir, the project manager in Kristínarhús which is a shelter for women victims out of prostitution and/or human trafficking, sat down with us for a quick interview.

How did this come about, that the Shorts&Docs contacted you for the panel?

Because the Shorts&Docs festival was focusing on female filmmakers and women s issues this year they sought after partnerships with NGOs that work in this field. So they contacted us at Stigamot to co-host this screening and panel which of course we were happy to do, to put focus on these issues that often do not get too much attention. I was also asked to point out candidates for the panel, and I think it was very interesting to have a representative from the police and the ministry of interior.

How do you feel that the film medium is suitable for subjects like this?

This medium is very suitable, for many reasons. The audience get to see the women tell their stories about them being victims of sex trafficking and prostitutions. You never fully understand this reality of these women, unless you get to hear them talk about this in person. But the downside is maybe that this is a visual medium, and women have to be brave to step in front of the camera to tell their story. There are many women that choose to speak in other non visual mediums, or to be blurred out completely if they agree on being filmed.

What can you tell me about this film, The price of sex?

The filmmaker obviously had worked very hard on the film itself. She describes the distress of these women very well, that they come from poor countries, which makes them easy victims for those who are behind human trafficking. The movie is about this distress both when the women are in these situations and the aftermath, because when they are free, this is not at all over, and the recovery process is very complex and difficult.

I think it’s very brave for this filmmaker to manage to get interviews with people involved in soliciting prostitution and pimps. I think that is a very good standpoint to take, because this is not a problem that exists in some kind of a vacuum, there are actual persons behind this demand side of the matter that keep maintaining these human rights violations.

What is your opinion about the filmmaker, did you feel her presence in the film?

Yes, absolutely, she is from Bulgaria and her voice as an author shines very strongly throughout the film. She is of course not just a filmmaker, she is an activist and a photojournalist so she approaches the subject in various ways. She has a webpage for the film:

Finally, what do you want people to notice the most, if they are going to see this film?

Well, I think the main message is that prostitution is sprung from distress, I think we could stop discussing the myth about the happy prostitute and free will, It is not choice and never will be.


We thank Steinunn for takting the time to talk with us, and wish her the best in her profession at Kristínarhús.

Interview: Ása Baldursdóttir
Photographs: Nanna Dís


A great cinematic day, hot tubs and a lobster fiesta!

We followed the Shorts&Docs crew on the road, rigging up today´s screenings, having a lot of fun at the ever so great cinema at Sindrabær, Höfn. The films were versatile and great, we saw Icelandic shorts, polish shorts, documentaries and more, a great selection from the four day festival held in Reykjavík prior. We went out and about, stopping at Kaffihornið for an interview and a deep-fried hot dog, drove by the ever so great hot tubs under the Hoffell glacier and then got the privilege too see the former presidential car, located at Bessastaðir.

The crew then invited us to eat lobster at Humarhöfnin where we were served hilariously and very handy bibs, with lobsters on them. They had whole lobsters for us to enjoy for dinner, with instructions on how to eat, with a splendid balsamic edik, bread, salat and home grown spices to go with. This was the best day ever, follow us for a full blown article in Grapevine coverage that will be published soon.

Nanna Dís, Ása, Þórður, Heather & Brynja Dögg

Words: Ása Baldursdóttir
Photos: Nanna Dís


With the Shorts&Docs on the road in Höfn!

We decided to go on the road with Reykjavík Shorts&Docs to Höfn í Hornafirði, in the southeast, having a great time, with the wonderful staff of the festival. We are currently covering the festival for Reykjavik Grapevine, and we hope to experience a splendid time, watching movies, going to museums and walking around in this lobster based wonder town. Stay tuned!

Photos: Nanna Dís

Reykjavík Shorts&Docs festival 2012 – #Day 4

We arrived just in time to meet up with Steinunn Gyðu- og Guðjónsdóttur, the project manager from Kristínarhús that participated in the panel after the screening of the documentary The Price of Sex. (interview coming soon) The film is about human trafficking and prostitution, and after the screening we attended a very interesting panel discussions led by Jóhannes Kr. Kristjánsson, journalists. Other participants in the panel were: Alda Hrönn , working as a police officer in Suðurnes. Alda directed the investigation of human trafficking issue that came up in the fall of 2009, Halla Gunnarsdóttir, a minister assistant and Hanna Eiríksdóttir, project management for UN Women in Iceland.

After the panel the award ceremony took place where filmmaker Börkur Sigþórsson was awarded for his short Come to Harm for the Best Icelandic Short Film and Tales of a Sea Cow by Etienne de France got a Special Jury Mention. Finally,  Pawel Wysoczanski was awarded for his documentary We Will Be Happy One Day, that is the best Documentary Newcomer Award. The films were all screened, and afterwards the festival offered talented dj Helgi Svavar bringin us reggae beats accompanied with free beer tasting and fun.

We want to thank all the staff for taking us so well, snooping around this years festival, and hope to see you guys next year!
Now were off to the road, with the festival on the road, going east to Höfn í Hornafjörður. See you guys there this weekend at the ever so lovely screeningroom in Sindrabær.

Text/photographs: Ása Baldursdóttir

Reykjavík Shorts&Docs festival 2012 – #Day 3

Our day started in Hafnarhúsið, at the off venue event at Reykjavik Art Museum in collaboration with Reykjavik Shorts & Docs where the film Tales of a Sea Cow by artist Etienne de France was screened. Afterwards he sat down for Q&A with Icelandic filmmaker Ragnheiður Gestsdóttir.

“this mockumentary is highly recommended”

Tales of a Sea Cow describes how a team of scientists has achieved the first ever decoding of animal communication; for the first time in history, they translated the song of a marine mammal – the Steller’s sea cow-, a species, which was until now thought extinct since 1768, until its rediscovery in 2007, along the coasts of Greenland. This mockumentary is highly recommended, even though we didn’t manage to watch the whole film.

Next stop was Bíó Paradís, where we saw three films in row, first the premiere of the film I’m Not Such a Beautiful Landscape by Emiliano Monaco and the film West Edges by Luca Di Meo followed by Q&A´s. They both had in common that the filmmakers are Italians, displaying Icelandic people or culture in their films.

Last on our schedule was The Boy Mir by Phil Grabsky, a film about the boy Mir, following his life situation for ten years in Afghanistan. The film made me think about many things, the harsh environment they live in and the importance of education and a better chance in life. And of course showing us a glimpse in to a world that we do not know so well. The only thing was, that the soundworld was a bit overlapping at times. But all in all, a great and ambitious film.

People took good brakes in between movies, had chats outside, and so forth. We can’t wait for the last day of this amazing film festival, and the award ceremony where the winning short film and winning documentary film will be announced.

Text/photographs: Ása Baldurdóttir
Photographs: Ása Baldursdóttir and Edda Björnsdóttir

Reykjavík Shorts&Docs festival 2012 – We are weather

The Icelandic short film We are weather, is one of many Icelandic shorts that were screened in day two on Reykjavík Shorts&Docs. We sat down with the film makers and the star of the movie for a quick chat and learned that they are all family.

Birgir Hilmarsson, Hera Lind Birgisdóttir & María Kjartansdóttir

Stills from the movie, We are Weather

Birgir: I’m the musician, we call ourselves Open your eyes and listen. The music is mostly ambient, with a blend of alternative and pop. I used a lot of sounds from the environment, and I tried to play with recycling sounds. The nature spoke its language, it’s kinda organic this film.

María: I’m the director; the film evolves around the concept that we are all one; we are all part of the same nature. I thought it was great to approach the Icelandic weather and at the same time experience it because we have been living abroad for the last eight years now so we are happy to be back.

When we arrived back in December we travelled the island in the middle of the winter and decided to document this energy from the nature here. It’s so powerful and it’s great to feel that it’s so much a part of us all.

So your daughter, she is the main star?

María: Everything we do is very “homie”, I shoot the photographs and the videos, she has been in many of our films and Birgir has created the sound worlds for them. The reason for this, is because we are always travelling around and moving, everywhere in rural areas even so we haven’t had many people around us to participate. She has been travelling with us and lived in five different countries with us the last couple of years. The family is very much involved.

Is this the first screening of the film, or has it been around?

María: We premiered the film in London the other day, on a photographic competition screening Ideas Tap Magnum, and it won second prize. It was great fun!

Have you seen a lot of Icelandic shorts on the festival?

Birgir: We saw a few, many of them are touching the issues of the depression here in Iceland, but our film was completely different, a spiritual experimental film. They were great, there are so many that are really well made and shows this growth in film making.

Interview: Ása Baldursdóttir
Photograph: Nanna Dís


Reykjavík Shorts&Docs festival 2012 – #Day 2

Day two started with a bang, on this year Reykjavík Short&Docs. We met a lot of interesting people, saw a couple of films and interviewed various guests on the festival. Bíó Paradís was the hotspot in town for film lovers and others, going in and out of the theatre all day long until midnight.

Fion Chan & Kit Lin

Volunteers on the run

On the Reykjavík Shorts&Docs you find that there are many volunteers in every corner, and at the main desk we met up with two charismatic girls that wanted to tell us more about experiencing the festival that way.

How do you end up being a volunteer here?

Fion Chan: We came here just for travelling, but we wanted to stay here longer, to get to know more about the society in Iceland. Then we found a website for a non-profit organization here, where we could find volunteer work and one of them was here at this film festival. And we like it very much!

We are both from Hong Kong; I’m working there as an accountant so I work with figures everyday. I think the film festival is something that I haven’t experienced before, so I thought it would be fun and cool to be a helper.

Have you been going to film festivals prior to this one?

Fion Chan: No, actually I have never been to a film festival before. I like watched movies, but I have never had the chance to attend a festival.

Kit Lin: This is also my first time. My story is very similar to Fion´s, we were classmates in University, and now I work in a bank. I thought to myself, now is the time that it would be cool to go to Iceland plus to get to work on a film festival, this is fantastic!

Have you seen any interesting films on the festival?

Fion Chan: We saw one, from Kim Longinotto, about women in Japan, that dress like men and but work to serve women customers. They had three characters in the film that were displayed both at work and at home.

Before I watched this film, I didn’t know that there were these boys over there working like this. They even talked about how they have sex with their partners without showing their bodies, because the feel very uncomfortable. They are neutral, they are not women and they are not men, their appearance is male but their bodies are female. That’s why they try to hide their bodies when they have sex, and that’s strange. And then there was one boy that was a woman that had a male partner. This is very complicated! Because the male partner, wanted to dress like a woman!

Sounds very complicated. Do you like documentaries?

Fion Chan: After I watched this documentary, I really like this format. Before I didn’t like it so much.

Kit Lin: I really like them, I watch documentaries on the Discovery channel and BBC, but I haven’t seen many like these independent films. So I really like to see some here at this film festival.

Thank you so much for the interview, and have a great time here at the festival!

Both: Thank you!

Ebba Margrét Magnúsdóttir

The film Sarabah a story, about the hip-hop singer Sister Fa from Senegal that is fighting against circumcision, by Maria Luisa Gambale and Gloria Bremer was shown last night on Reykjavík Shorts&Docs. We managed to grab one of the people doing the panel discussion hosted by UN Women Ebba Margrét Magnúsdóttir, gynaecologist and birth specialist, who was happy to be a part of the discussion.

So what can you tell me, in short, about this issue?

There are 2 million women circumcised per year approximately, so I think that the woman in this film is very brave to step forward and tell her story. I think it makes people understand better how serious this problem really is and how its often related to small isolated communities. It’s a tradition, and it’s difficult to brake out of that.

So do you think that documentaries can raise awareness about these things?

I think that this issue can be mediated in more than one medium; this young and beautiful woman can step forward in the film medium. I am a gynaecologist and a specialist in women’s births, so it touches this field also. I have been a spokesperson here in Iceland against female genital plastic surgeries; I think that is a direct effect from the porn industry that shakes our world today.

Have you seen the film Perfect Vagina?

Well, yes, I saw that film and I think young girls are shaving their genitals, as I said, it’s a direct influence from this porn culture, and we have to do something about it. The perfect vagina does not exist! My concern is that young girls don’t have the maturity to fight against it by themselves so we have to do it as much as we can.

Lastly, what can you tell me about the film screened last night, Sarabah, how did you like it?

I think this woman is very brave, she moves from Africa to Germany and tells her story. She is with this great band and visits schools, dances with other women. I thought it was a beautiful film, and this woman is a hero in my eyes.

Donor-Unknown, by Jerry-Rothwell

Donor Unknown by Jerry Rothwell was screened at eight o’clock followed by a Q&A by the director. The film follows the story of JoEllen Marsh, age 20, who goes in search of the sperm donor father which results in her finding 13 of her donor siblings and a meeting with her donor father. This issue is a very complicated and multi-layered, so the director got a lot of follow up questions about the people in the movie and the process of the filming, this issue in general, and the reception that the film got. Maybe there are hundreds of people related in these countries that donate the most, people maybe brothers and sisters without knowing it. Also, some don’t even know that they are donor conceived. My head was spinning after the screening, and I really liked the discussions afterwards.

Ása – columnist of Snoop-Around

Interviews: Ása Baldursdóttir
Photographs: Nanna Dís

Reykjavík Shorts&Docs festival 2012 – #Day 1

We showed up at Bíó Paradís at two o’clock, and saw a film by the festivals patron Kim Longinotto, Runaway followed by an interesting Q&A about the life´s of these young girls staying at a shelter in Tehran, Iran displayed in the film. This film was so inspiring that we couldn’t resist to see another film by Longinotto, Gaea Girls about a group of Japanese female wrestlers. These two different women’s worlds, displayed and portrayed in both films, had a great impact and showed us a reality and portraits of women in different places in the world.

When we came out of the screening, there was a polish reception where we grabbed Marcin Luczaj, program director from Short Waves, Festival Poznan in Poland and Tomek Adamski, program director. Adamski told us about his relation to the festival, talked about the difference between Icelandic and Polish filmmaking, and his take on the festival, sitting in an authors chair that we found in the corner of the cinema. Luczaj was on the other hand, glad to pop out with us for a quick chat about the screenings and selections of the polish shorts that were screened prior to our interview. The polish shorts that we saw, were very versatile. One animated film stuck out to us about a twisted rabbit who did everything from being a abstract Alice in Wonderland style fugitive to being a needy little boy, trying to disappear.

We managed to meet the Norwegian director Silje Glimsdal, and Morten Stahlhut producer of the film Hotel Stalker, sat them down in a sofa, and asked about their film, and this concept of creating an atmosphere through the medium of filmmaking.

The grand opening of the festival took place eight o’clock, featuring Brynja Dögg, the press officer and Heather Millard, the festival director giving an opening speech, right before the screening of the two opening films, short film Krass by Tómas Jóhannesson and Town Runners, a documentary by Jerry Rothwell.

We had a great time, in Bíó Paradís, inhaling the excitement of the people there, trying to choose films to see the following days and to book more interviews. See you there, we will be snooping around for the rest of the festival. Day one was a great day to start Reykjavík Shorts & Docs this year.

A video from Day One-Reykjavík Shorts & Docs is expected soon.

Information and schedule of the festival can be found here:

Photographs/Text/Interview: Ása Baldursdóttir
Photographs/video: Edda Björnsdóttir
Photographs: Nanna Dís