So last night Sigga and i went to Iðno to the premiere of the documentary “where’s the snow” about last years Iceland Airwaves. It was pretty much packed out and we were treated to a pre-screening performance from Mammút and Agent Fresco. And the one thing i hoped for came true in that there WAS free beer available. Alas it was only Heineken, but hey, never turn down such an offer!
So we came to the film itself. How did i find the cinematic event of the year?
(WARNING!!!!! POSSIBLE SPOILERS AFTER THIS. IF YOU READ ON AND GO “AWWW I DIDN’T WANT TO KNOW THAT!!” THEN YOU A COMPLETE TOOL)
Weeeeeeeell………….. it was….. Okay
The first impression when you start watching WTS is that it looks really fucking great! Most of the location and tracking shots of Reykjavik and Iceland are beautiful, especially the shots of Hallgrímskirkja bathed in golden sunset light. and most of the live sections were brilliantly shot. In particular the video of Mammut’s performance at Sódóma was particularly striking and better than 89% of most music videos out there.
There were also little snippets that put a smile on your face, such as the moment during Retro Stefsons performance at the Naked Ape boutique, the camera panned to the window to catch a passer-by patting a display polar bear on the head. Awww….
But as time went on i felt a little frustrated as there was a glaring lack of focus about what the documentary was about. Was it about Iceland Airwaves or the Reykjavik music scene in general? If it was about Airwaves, then we really didn´t get to see much about how Airwaves ticks or get to see the legions of workers and volunteers who struggle to pull it off, year after year. Also there was no context or background in that Last years airwaves was a struggle to make ends meet due to the impact of the kreppa, and there almost wasn’t going to be an airwaves at one point. This was a point that was pressed.
What we did get were a lot of talking heads going “Err it’s loads of fun and everyone is really up for it. And there are loads of Bands to see” and “Oh these guys are really cool they’re our favourites”. When Reykjavik! did their talking head along the lines of “loads of bands who come to Iceland are just about having a good time, whereas the Icelandic bands are really working hard in preparing in giving their all” (edit – apparantly Mammút said this…), this is very much true, but half of the people the directors spoke too were pretty much drunk most of the time (Broðir Svartúlfs – “err what was the question again?”)
The bands featured were Retrön, Reykjavik, Dikta, Ólafur Arnalds, Kimono, Retro Stefson, Páll Óskar and Hjaltalín, Bróðir Svartúlfs, Esja and Our Lives (who if you blinked, you’d have missed them). The main focus though was on Mammút and Agent Fresco. Something tells me that these guys were the favourites of the directors. Agent Fresco in particular played two different versions of the same song, “eyes of a cloud catcher” (3 if you count the pre-screening performance). Believe me if you aren’t sick of that song before you see this film, i guarantee you will afterwards. Overall the performances were really good. Only Our Lives looked and sounded a bit boring.
If the film was casting a light onto the Reykjavík music scene itself, then it barely scratched the surface. Why for example is it that Reykjavik bats way above its average in the number of bands it produces? This was never really answered. The directors also missed a trick during the film. When Dr Musicologist talked about how Icelandic musicians crossed genres with ease, they should have gone to Esja and spoke to Daniél Águst (who’s been in popsters Ný Dönsk and techno band Gus Gus, as well as Esja) and asked him what motivates him to hop genres. Instead they spoke to Krummi, but they could have asked him that as well (He’s in a darkwave electro band called Legend). Instead he, like everyone else, talked about “all the cool bands out there”. Hmmm.
At one point Sigga pointed out that subtitles would have helped. Not Icelandic subtitles but English ones as she couldn´t make out what Retrön and half of Retro Stefson were talking about most of the time. Probably just as well as Kolli Kvit from Retrön looked rather spaced out. Must have been all that rehearsing.
So in the end “Where’s the Snow!?” is a film that contains several outstanding live music performances punctuated by rather banal filler chat. If you like Icelandic music in general then do watch it, but if you are looking for a bit of insight, or you really don´t like Agent Fresco, then I’d give it a miss……