I want to Be Weird, a documentary by Brynja Dögg Friðriksdóttir, tells the story of concept artist Kitty Von-Sometime, who lived in Iceland for several years, making what she calls an “on-going art experiment or art project” named The Weird Girls Project—an experimental video project meant to liberate women through participation in a project of dance, music and colorful costumes. The participants are thrown into the unknown, unaware of location, costumes or subject until the day of shooting. The documentary describes how the concept of Weird Girls was born and shows clips from several of the episodes, while describing their impact on those involved. In the process we learn about Kitty’s background, how she ended up in Iceland, struggled as an artist and ultimately decided to leave.
The film is quite informative for those unfamiliar with Kitty and her work. It describes well what led her into this work—the notion that women she knew, while comfortable and open in a private setting, often seemed to lose their confidence and feeling of self-worth when they went out on weekends. That’s what Kitty set out to change by dressing them up in colorful, weird costumes and having them perform without preparation, surrounded by beautiful landscape, creating in the process a video where their collective beauty was allowed to shine. Thus, the women, who came from all walks of life and had no acting experience, stepped into the unknown, free from the boundaries of their daily lives, gained confidence as they discovered their ability to perform.
The film flows well while describing The Weird Girls’ Project, showing colorful clips from the episodes between scenes where Kitty talks about her work, and some of the participants describe how the work affected them. Their testimony shows that the episodes were liberating, rid some of them of their shyness and made them more at ease with their body image. They also speak about the camaraderie involved in being together the whole day, riding the bus as a group, both before and after the event.
There are good scenes, too, from Exeter, England, where Kitty grew up. We get to meet her mother who describes her as “a nightmare” growing up, because of how rebellious she was. This part of the film deepens the viewer’s understanding of Kitty and makes us better aware of how her artistic character was born.
Kitty explains well how the Icelandic environment helped her prove herself as an artist: the openness of the society and easy access to people. She talks about “an immense pool of creativity” which clearly encourages her to follow her passion. But for the struggling artist, money remains a problem and Kitty mentions that problem often, going into detail about her unemployment benefits and lack of funds. While this is a subject that must be discussed in the film, the problem is repeated too often. Mentioning it a few times only would have had just as strong an impact. In fact, this repetition spoils the otherwise good flow of the film.
Clearly, making music videos using the Weird Girls concept made a financial difference for the artist. Her stroke of luck came when she was commissioned to film for the shoe company Converse in China. The juxtaposition of being treated like a queen while on location and coming back to her unemployment benefits shows the contradictions in an artist’s life very well.
As the documentary progresses, it becomes more chaotic and doesn’t flow as well as the first part. Time spent on preparations for the Jellyfish project seems too long, as does a scene from a storage space where Kitty rummages through clothes and pieces from the Weird Girls. Admittedly, the artist’s life becomes more chaotic, too, as the film progresses, ultimately leading her to lose her faith in living in Iceland. We are reminded that life in our country has its dark side—especially dark in the wintertime. Financially, it can be quite a struggle, and the weather can be truly “shitty.” The last video Kitty makes in Iceland shows how strong her connection is to the country. Parting with it isn’t easy, but she has made up her mind to draw the curtain on a very creative episode in her life, hopefully to start a new one in a place where the sun shines more often.
Brynja Dögg deserves high praise for her documentary, which manages to create a very honest portrait of Kitty, giving the audience a good idea of her creative character and feeling of social responsibility, while reminding us of the constant financial struggle and sacrifices she has made to let her dream project be born.
The film runs in Bíó Paradís cinema. There are two shows remaining:
Wednesday, September 16 at 6 pm
Wednesday, September 23 at 8 pm
Tickets are available at Bíó Paradís and www.tix.is
The film is mostly in English and without subtitles.
An international premiere in Malmö, Sweden:
Friday, September 18: The Nordisk Panorama Film Festival