Almanac (World) Cinema: Icelandic Feature Films Involving Sport


Iceland film clapperboard. (Source: Wikimedia Commons.)


Baby, it’s Cold Outside – Icelandic Feature Films Involving Sport


Iceland, a country with a population of around 350 000, fights well above its weight division in the sporting arena, with football, basketball, handball, swimming, track-and-field, strength competitions and snow-related activities among its main sports. Many Almanackers will recall Iceland’s recent football successes, for example, including qualification for the 2016 European Cup and the 2018 World Cup. Obviously, the range of sports Iceland can be involved in is limited by its climate, but not as much as one may imagine, with numerous indoor venues available and the fact that even golf is popular when and where weather circumstances permit.


In spite of its small population, Iceland excels in many other areas of life, too, as I have indicated in a previous Footy Almanac piece about Icelandic cinema – the country’s contribution to world cinema is nothing short of amazing, given its small size, with approximately 250 feature films produced in the last 40 years – not to mention almost countless short films and documentaries. Consequently, I decided to focus this article upon some Icelandic feature films with a sports basis or, at least, ones where sport is a significant aspect. The plot summaries and brief critiques below are mine entirely, while other information comes mainly from the excellent online Icelandic Film Database. Except for the first and last films below, the bracketed title following the English one is the original Icelandic title.



(Source: Wikipedia.)



Albatross (2015)


(Colour. 100 minutes.)


During summer, three men work on the upkeep of a golf course in the remote Westfjords area of Iceland. For the most part, they try not to work too hard, although the prospect of their course being selected as the venue for a tournament does (to some degree) focus whatever motivation they do possess!


Pleasant comedy with beautiful natural landscapes dominating the background – smoothly and professionally done all round. The acting in general, and the guitar-based soundtrack in particular, are especially noteworthy. And there are a couple of absolutely hilarious scenes – one involves the three main characters discussing in detail the manner in which they use toilet paper!


Screenplay: Snævar Sölvason Directed by: Snævar Sölvason
Main Cast: Ævar Örn Jóhannsson, Pálmi Gestsson, Finnbogi Dagur Sigurðsson, Gunnar Kristinsson



Devil’s Island (Djöflaeyjan) (1996)


(Colour. 104 minutes.)


It’s Iceland in the fifties. The setting is a slummy area of Reykjavik, where US military buildings have been converted into homes. Families struggle to get by. The younger generation dreams of money, rock’n’roll and all things American. Alcohol is abundant in this difficult environment. This film shows the daily life of an eccentric family and those who are part of their world. Though certainly not a sports feature film in any full sense of the word, it is included here because of a memorable sequence involving track-and-field athletic events.


Comedy-drama. The screenplay is full of intelligent observations, and contains credible, interesting and well-drawn characters. Fridrik Thor directs with his customary style.


Screenplay: Einar Kárason Directed by: Friðrik Þór Friðriksson
Main Cast: Baltasar Kormákur, Sigurveig Jónsdóttir, Gísli Halldórsson, Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, Sveinn Þórir Geirsson



(Source: Wikipedia.)



Eleven Men Out (Strákarnir okkar) (2005)


(Colour. 86 minutes.)


A predominantly gay Icelandic football club—in particular one of its star players who has joined it from a higher status, fully professional team—has its trials and tribulations.


Well-acted, thoughtfully written and directed piece with its heart in the right place.


Screenplay: Jón Atli Jónasson, Róbert Douglas Directed by: Róbert Douglas
Main Cast: Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, Helgi Björnsson, Arnmundur Ernst Backmann, Lilja Nótt Þórarinsdóttir, Sigurður Skúlason



The Falcons (Víti í Vestmannaeyjum) (2018)


(Colour. 95 minutes.)


The Falcons, a children’s soccer team, travel to a small Icelandic island for a kids’ tournament. While there, its members learn some valuable life lessons. (Any person who has been involved as a youngster in a Little League Lightning Premiership or comparable event would identify with many aspects of this film.)


Good quality family drama with touches of humour. What prevents it from being better than this is a tendency towards the stereotypical. In general terms, the characters and story don’t offer anything particularly distinctive or original, and the drama doesn’t quite build to the high points that it should. Smoothly professional and engaging, nevertheless.


Screenplay: Jóhann Ævar Grímsson, Gunnar Helgason, Ottó Geir Borg Directed by: Bragi Þór Hinriksson
Main Cast: Lúkas Emil Johansen, Viktor Benóný Benediktsson, Ísey Heiðarsdóttir, Róbert Luu, Jóhann G. Jóhannsson, Óli Gunnar Gunnarsson, Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir



(Source: Wikipedia.)



The Icelandic Dream (Íslenski draumurinn) (2000)


(Colour. 92 minutes.)


A soccer-loving thirty-year-old deals with a problematic family life, and financial and employment troubles.


Mockumentary which is sometimes amusing and interesting, but possesses too many tedious moments. Apparently, the actors involved improvised their dialogue, and it shows, in terms of a looseness in the narrative and lack of pointedness in particular scenes. Furthermore, overall, the piece is not helped by the unlikeable, oafish central character, and a story which lacks compelling incidents.


Screenplay: Róbert Douglas Directed by: Róbert Douglas
Main Cast: Þórhallur Sverrisson, Jón Gnarr, Hafdís Huld, Laufey Brá Jónsdóttir, Matt Keeslar



Life in a Fishbowl (Vonarstræti) (2014)


(Colour. 128 minutes.)


Stories focusing upon an ageing alcoholic writer, a young mother who works as a prostitute and a soccer star turned businessman.


Shot with some style and well-acted, this portmanteau film is hard to follow in detail. A tighter, more coherent screenplay would have helped considerably.


Screenplay: Baldvin Z, Birgir Örn Steinarsson Directed by: Baldvin Z
Main Cast: Þorsteinn Bachmann, Hera Hilmarsdóttir, Þorvaldur Davíð Kristjánsson



The Together Project (aka The Aquatic Effect). (Source: Wikipedia.)



The Together Project   (Sundáhrifin, aka L’effet aquatique) (2016)


(Colour. 83 minutes.)


Samir, a crane driver, and Agathe, a swimming instructor, have an unusual relationship that starts in France and moves to Iceland.


Stylish, well-acted and directed comedy-drama. One thing lacking is that the male and female lead characters are not that engaging or interesting.


Screenplay: Sólveig Anspach, Jean-Luc Gaget Directed by: Sólveig Anspach
Main Cast: Florence Loiret Caille, Samir Guesmi



Sourcing Icelandic Films


Google is a good place to start looking for information about Icelandic films – searching for general information will usually lead to specific title searching. The Icelandic Film Database is a wonderful online resource for details about Icelandic films of all kinds (including shorts and docos), while pay per view sites such as Icelandic Films Online are worth exploring. I sometimes buy Icelandic feature film DVDs, and these are available at various online venues, which I generally find by Googling. Also, the big Hi-Fi and DVD franchises which have stores both physical and online often stock a few of the more recent and better known Icelandic films. Finally, rarely, there’s the odd Icelandic feature film that crops up on the free-to-air SBS Movies TV channel.



Main Sources


Icelandic Film Database (online)
IMDb (online)
Wikipedia (online)



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Kevin Densley is a poet and writer-in-general. His fourth book-length poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, was published in late 2020 by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Other writing includes screenplays for educational films.


  1. Kevin Densley says

    The Footy Almanac in Iceland

    Just a postscript to let Almanackers know that The Footy Almanac made it to Iceland this morning, in that young Icelandic film director, Snævar Sölvi Sölvason, got back to me (occasionally I correspond with him via Messenger) and said he liked how I’d written up his film, Albatross – I’d just sent him a link to the above Almanac article about Icelandic movies and sport – and indeed he has read and appreciated the previous article I’ve written for the Almanac about Icelandic cinema, too.

    It’s very pleasing when one’s writing makes these kinds of connections – and also that The Footy Almanac is involved!

  2. Phillip Hall says

    Yes, I love everything Iceland too, ever since I read William Morris’ Icelandic Journal. Not a soccer fan, but love the way you explored sport through the lens of film – terrific!

  3. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, Phillip! Of course I agree – in all sorts of ways, Iceland has so much to offer.

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