Review by Alana Odegard.
I hadn’t heard too much about the film Future of Hope before I attended the premiere last week. I assumed it was about the banking crisis, but then a friend told me she thought it was about preserving the country’s natural resources.
As it turns out, we were both right.
Future of Hope is a film about sustainability not only in the way it applies to the environment, but also about how it relates to the economy.
As stated on the official website, the film is a “character driven documentary following individuals that strive to change the world of consumerism, a system of credit and debt that the Icelandic economy was built upon for the past 10 years or more.”
An entertaining animated introduction takes the viewer through the history of Iceland, right up to the present day. Among the subjects addressed in the film are becoming hot topics these days: consumerism, sustainability, going organic and the need for renewable resources.
These are all discussed within the framework of Iceland in the sense that the film delves into how Iceland can be thought of as a model or “test” for the rest of the world in terms of how to make changes away from consumerism (learning when enough if enough) and towards a new way of thinking and acting.
Icelandic academics, activists and politicians are among those interviewed, including former President of Iceland Vigdís Finnbogadóttir and current Minister of Education and Culture Katrín Jakobsdóttir.
A few Icelandic start-up companies are also profiled, as well as the intriguing House of Ideas. The bottom line: this crisis can be the mother of innovation.
There was a lot of talk in Future of Hope about how now more than ever Icelanders need to return to the core values they had turned away from in the years leading up to the crash as well as the need to protect the country which has been passed down to Icelanders from their forefathers.
There is a message present within the film that wavers between nationalism and the idea that we are all members of the same global community. Frankly, at times I was left feeling confused.
Am I supposed to be thinking locally or globally? Some people in the film said we should act locally and think globally, others championed the idea of a global village and there was also talk of the importance of local communities.
I’m not saying that these two ideas are mutually exclusive (nor do I think the film was saying that either), but at least for me, these concepts were a little fuzzy. What was intended to be specific to Iceland versus what applies to the rest of the world was at times lost on me.
Parts of the film were unmistakably Icelandic, such as the interview with an Icelandic entrepreneur who opened a restaurant and spa, taking a loan from the bank for ISK 70 million (USD 596,000, EUR 462,000), if my memory serves me correctly, to do so.
His business was successful and he had paid back ISK 30 million of his loan before the crash, but now, post-crash, he owes more than ISK one hundred million because of indexation.
He explained that with no help whatsoever from the bank, he was paying back what he could, but that he may just stop paying the bank all together.
Looking into the camera, he gave the bank a “good natured” middle finger and the cinema, which was packed on opening night, erupted into applause. Clearly people welcome the idea of taking matters into their own hands.
Indeed, the film also touched upon the importance of democracy and critical thinking.
Something else worth mentioning is that the documentary is almost entirely in English, meaning the Icelanders who make up the majority of the interviewees all speak in English (rather than answer in Icelandic with English subtitles, as is usually the case).
This language choice really conveys the feeling that the movie is trying to spread its message beyond the borders of Iceland.
However, they may want to consider adding English subtitles before its international release because the Icelandic accent of some of the people interviewed makes their English difficult to understand at times.
The idea that Future of Hope is an Icelandic film with worldwide aspirations is reinforced by the fact that it is directed and filmed by Henry Bateman, a non-Icelander.
Upon leaving the theater I overheard a conversation in Icelandic between two men who had just seen the film.
One of them was telling the other that he thought the film was great and was flabbergasted by the fact a foreigner had made it. “This is something we should have been doing,” he said.
I couldn’t help but think that this film does mark a turning point in Iceland. For so long there was a pulsating anger that could be felt within the country because of the financial collapse: anger towards the banksters, the government, the recession and the situation in general.
What I took to be the resounding message of the film is that the crisis will ultimately strengthen the country, that Icelanders are entering a new healing phase of rebirth and that the nation needs to stay positive and learn a valuable lesson from the past in order to move forward.
Let’s hope so.
The five stages of grief you often hear about came to mind, the last of which is acceptance.
Apparently it’s during the last stage that people begin to come to terms with their mortality and I think it makes perfect sense that hope often goes hand in hand with acceptance.
This is not a film about the lead-up to and cause of the collapse, but rather what people are doing now and, as the aptly-named title suggests, what they are hoping for and doing to shape the future.
It does get a little repetitive at the end but complete with spectacular shots of the Icelandic landscape, Future of Hope is worth seeing.
As of September 3, Future of Hope will be released for a minimum of two weeks at the Háskólabíó cinema in Reykjavík and from September 10, it will be screened at cinemas in Akureyri and Seydisfjördur.
Alana Odegard – [email protected]
Ready and willing to watch anything that comes her way, Alana has a love for all things film. Having studied it as part of her B.A. degree, Alana’s keeping her fingers crossed that one fine day her passion for the silver screen will carry over from pastime to day-job.