A panel on Arctic affairs was held yesterday in the Northern House as part of RIFF, Reykjavík International Film Festival, festivities. The panel was sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and intended to showcase the views of filmmakers and artists on the Arctic. Finnish movies and the Arctic are the focal points of RIFF this year. Arctic issues are increasingly gaining attention and the festival this year reflects that. The folkloreist and ethnologist Kristinn Schram conducted the panel which included Finnish filmmakers Einari Paakkanen, Elina Pohjola and Jani Pösö, alongside Icelandic author Andri Snær Magnason and academic Sumarliði R. Ísleifsson. The panel discussed a number of viewpoints on Arctic issues held by filmmakers from the region such as glacial melting, climate change being a global affair and the status of Iceland as an Arctic nation.
Increased melting while humanity stands by
The acclaimed Icelandic writer Andri Snær Magnason commented that the Arctic is in many ways becoming more globalized with outside affiliation in Arctic issues. He called for attention to the ever-increasing rate at which glaciers are melting. His next book will discuss the issue of glacial melting through the tale of a trip his grandparents made to research glaciers in 1956. Andri claims that a part of the problem lies with the fact that we humans look at glaciers, mountains and the nature as a firm entity – something that will always be there and has always been. While the glaciers have been on the geological time spectrum for thousands of years they have now left geological speed and are experiencing ‘human speed’ as they are melting at an accelerated pace. However, while nature is speeding up it is clear that human and global reactions, politics and businesses are dealing with the melting of glaciers at geological speed.
The panel touched on the ethical obligation of Nordic filmmakers to shed a light on issues of climate change. The claim was made that this should be expected of filmmakers, such as those from Finland, as the Nordic countries are at the forefront of climate change. Einari Paakanen, the director of My Father From Sirius, which focuses on his relationship with his father and his affiliation with UFOs and aliens, argued that the responsibility for making movies about global warming lies with the whole planet as it is an issue the global population has to tackle. Author Andri Snær agreed as he asserted that climate change issues are too large and obvious to not to deal with them. He also commented that metaphors are essential for people to understand the issue. Films and other arts shed a light on the matter in a way that scientists can’t.
Iceland the Arctic nation
Sumarliði R. Ísleifsson, who represents academia as a professor of applied cultural studies at the University of Iceland, claimed that Iceland is not necessarily a pure Arctic nation due to its geographical location. The professor commented on the floating status of the perception of Iceland as foreigners have viewed the island as a Nordic, wild, uncivilized part of Europe. Sumarliði mentioned this in the context of the movie Under the Arctic Sky, a documentary which showcases a band of surfers seeking swells in the remote fjords of Iceland. He commented how Iceland is often presented as a playground for people that come from the South to the ‘wilderness’ of the pure, untainted North.
RIFF, Reykjavík International Film Festival, takes place between the 28th of September and 8th of October. Iceland Review will cover the festival on the website as well as the Iceland Review magazine. For tickets and information, check out www.riff.is