Posted by: neilh10 | October 29, 2011

Future of Hope? A British filmmakers take on post-crash Iceland

About 18 months ago I responded to a call for donations on Kickstarter from a couple of british filmmakers, who were driving around Iceland in a campervan making a film about Iceland. The project promised to focus on the positive and inspirational things to come out of Iceland since the economic crash, and set out its main objective as improving the reputation and image of Iceland on a global scale, and also give hope to many individuals throughout the world that are faced with an uncertain economic future.

Along with 181 others, I pledged about £20 and signed myself up. And, today, I finally recieved a copy of the film, entitled: Future of Hope, on DVD. And, sure enough, I appeared (probably for the first and last time in my life) in the end credits of a film. And, having finally watched the film, i’m really glad I supported the project and helped make the film happen. Given its tiny budget of $10000, the film looks (and sounds) incredibly accomplished, with some awesome and inspirational shots of Iceland and its people.

For those who didn’t know, Iceland has a lot of renewable energy, clever, resourceful (and occasionally eccentric) people, and a lot of crazy ideas that somehow actually end up working. Like the idea of building a pub and concert hall in Flateyri (population 170), or a school on top of a thermal spring 150 miles from the nearest town, with no road connections. ‘Future of Hope’ focusses in on the entrepeneurs who see the potential for a sustainable future in Iceland: an organic farmer, a greenhouse farmer, a social entrepeneur in Reykjavik and a guy who has built a thai restaurant in the middle of nowhere, along with a turf hut, where he lives with his Thai wife – all financed by a foreign currency denominated loan which has since gone bad.

One observation I would make is that the people profiled in the film are not that typical of the Icelandic population at large. It doesn’t show regular Icelanders making unnccessary trips around the suburbs of Reykjavik in oversized jeeps, flying to London and Copenhagen to go on shopping trips, and eating lots of hot dogs and Ice cream. Iceland really isn’t that different to anywhere else in the world, when it comes down to it.

Indeed, one of the challenges that the film provoked in my mind is whilst Iceland could have a sustainable future, there are few signs that this potential is going to be harnessed in the near future. The greenhouse farmers are complaining that the electricity company would rather sell the energy to the aluminium plant for cheaper. Politics intervenes: there are more jobs to be had in an alimunium plant. Everyone in Iceland seems to value the wonderful inheritance they have in the land and its energy, albeit in different ways, and people differ endlessly and squabble over on how best to take things forward. Unfortunately this is a rather depressing feature of Icelandic life that isn’t given much coverage in the film, and in consequence the complete picture (as I see it) doesn’t really emerge.

However, we we’re promised a positive film that shows Iceland as a role model for the rest of the world. And it does exactly that. I wouldn’t be at all suprised if the film becomes a bit of a hit, particularly as the Icelandic ‘revolution’ that took place in 2008 has (perhaps inadvertently) become a role model for political activists across Europe. And, this kind of attention is really positive, because it acts as a very powerful counterweight to the totally innaccurate perception of Iceland as a nation of crooked bankers and thieves, as a consequence of the Icesave fiasco.

Overall, ‘Future of Hope’ does a great job at promoting Iceland from a kind of centre-left, environmentalist point of view. There are lots of great people in Iceland with wonderful ideas and visions, and they are making these happen right now, and ‘Future of Hope’ manages to really capture them. It’s the kind of film that I can imagine lending to friends and aquaintances when they ask for more information about Iceland. At the end of the day, if you are attracted to the vision set out in Future of Hope, you would probably really enjoy going on holiday to Iceland.

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