Iceland enthusiast Rob Watts tells us about his Icelandic film podcast ‘Kvikmyndapod’

One of our favourite discoveries this year has been a podcast called Kvikmyndapod. Created by Rob Watts, it celebrates the wonderful Icelandic movies that are out there and helps us discover more to watch!

We spoke to Rob to find out more about why he started the podcast, and some of his favourite Icelandic films.

NW: Where did the idea for your podcast come from and tell us more about its name?

RW: The idea for KVIKMYNDAPOD had been brewing for a little while by the time Ellie and I got going in early 2021.

It all started when I first visited Iceland in December 2010, off the back of a shared intrigue with the country and based for me on having watched the Sigur Rós tour film ‘Heima’. Since that incredible and magical trip, I’ve become more and more interested in visiting and traveling around the island with its dramatic and varied landscape, and immersing myself in the culture – and the pop culture!

I’ve now been five times in total and try to watch and listen to whatever Icelandic film and music I can get my hands on. It’s become so that among friends and family, I’m practically synonymous with Iceland! I’ve even lost count of the number of people who have visited the country since I recommended they visit!

The podcast itself came about as a lockdown project. I’ve been involved with another podcast called ‘The Evolution of Horror’ for the last few years, appearing in episode one alongside my friend Mike Muncer. This and a couple of other podcast projects started by friends got me thinking about doing one, but I had to pick a topic. So I settled on a nice little niche one!

I was pretty sure that most people couldn’t name a single Icelandic film!

As with my day job working in TV, I love to learn while I work and then use that research to inform and entertain the audience. So I thought if I picked Icelandic film it would give me a reason to dive headfirst into that subject properly and introduce the public to the amazing world of Iceland and its art at the same time. I was pretty sure that most people couldn’t name a single Icelandic film!

Once I had settled on my subject I knew I needed someone to talk to about it and my good friend Ellie seemed like the ideal person.

Before the pandemic, we used to regularly visit the cinema and it was always great fun to discuss whatever we’d watched over a drink or the walk home. We missed out on this for a year and so when it came to thinking about doing a podcast on film I knew she’d have some really interesting views, and untainted opinions, due to the fact she knows next to nothing about Iceland, especially its film industry.

Much like the creators of Nordic Watchlist, Rob fell in love with Iceland and everything it has to offer, including the movies,
TV shows and music!

Wanting to share interesting facts and tidbits, I knew having a co-host who could ask lots of questions and to who I could explain certain things was the perfect way to do it. Not that I’m in any way an expert. I’m basically learning just as much as we go! Plus it turns out Ellie is a pro podcaster in her own right, presenting the ‘History Extra’ podcast. So that helped.

It’s also been a real process of learning how to plan, produce, host, and edit a podcast which has been brilliant fun – I guess it’s true that anyone can start a podcast if they really want to!

As for the name, KVIKMYNDAPOD is basically the result of me taking what little I know of the Icelandic language and crafting a new word! ‘Kvikmynd’ means ‘film’. ‘Pod’ is a pretty obvious abbreviation of ‘podcast’. And the middle ‘a’ seemed to be the way words are built in the language, ‘kvikmyndahús’ for example, meaning ‘cinema’ or literally ‘film house’. I’m sure linguists could explain more clearly but I think it makes sense!

It’s also been a real process of learning how to plan, produce, host, and edit a podcast which has been brilliant fun – I guess it’s true that anyone can start a podcast if they really want to!

NW: Is the podcast an exploration of the movies for those who have watched them or can anyone listen to the podcast before seeing the movies?

RW: The idea of the podcast is to spread the word about 21st Century Icelandic films and discuss what makes them accessible to anyone, but also to explore how they are specifically Icelandic by looking at the setting and the context in which they were made. This requires, unsurprisingly, proper spoilerific discussions, so I would recommend listeners watch the films before listening.

Having said that, I’m sure my chats with Ellie are fun and interesting enough to listen to regardless, and will hopefully spur people on to watch the films afterward!

Before each episode is released (typically a week) we will name the next film and where it can be found by posting on social media and I always mention it at the end of the previous episode. Some films are harder to find than others but we do our best to track them down for the listeners!

The good news is that the word of Icelandic film is spreading and more recent films are much more easily available. I put this down in part to KVIKMYNDAPOD, haha!

NW: What was the first Icelandic movie that you watched? 

RW: That would be ‘Jar City’ (Mýrin), the Arnaldur Indriðason adaptation starring my fave, Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson as Detective Erlendur!

I saw this at the Electric Cinema in Birmingham during university and loved how moody and atmospheric it was, coming ahead of the Scandi noir boom! Iceland looked alien and bloody cold but also breathtaking, and come to think of it, must have also led to my decision to visit that first time!

Since then I’ve been enjoying watching familiar faces pop up in every film, and Ellie and I regularly play Icelandic actor bingo on the podcast!

NW: To date what has been your favourite Icelandic movie and if one were a complete beginner watching an Icelandic movie where should they start?

RW: That’s such a hard question as there is so much diversity in the movies coming out of Iceland! But I do love the vein of dark humour that runs through many of the films so it would probably be the “neighbor rage” comedy-drama ‘Under the Tree’ (Undir trénu), purely because of how surprising I found it on the first watch and just how black it gets!

For newbies, I would suggest watching ‘Rams’ (Hrútar), which is the film we kicked off the podcast with.

Oh, but there’s also the incredible ‘Echo’ (Bergmál) which looks stunning and gives a really great insight into life in Reykjavík at one of the most beautiful times of the year to be there, Christmas! This instantly made it onto my annual Christmas watch list; it’s funny, wistful, uplifting, and occasionally downright bizarre!

For newbies, I would suggest watching ‘Rams’ (Hrútar), which is the film we kicked off the podcast with. This is an Icelandic film down to its core with universal themes of family and making a living that is consistently funny, has cute sheep, great knitwear, a fantastic score, and shows off the Icelandic landscape as well.

NW: How about TV series – do watch as many of these as you do the movies? What are some favourites?

RW: If it’s Icelandic I will watch it! (Although I haven’t seen ‘Case’ yet ssshhh).

My favourite has to be ‘Trapped’ (Ófærð), especially season one. Ólafur Darri Ólafsson is such a magnetic screen presence, and the idea of being cut off in a remote part of an already remote island makes an intriguing and claustrophobic premise for a crime series. I’m looking forward to season three coming out very soon!

2021 has been a good year for Iceland on screen because we even got ‘Katla’, the big-budget Netflix sci-fi mystery series that I thought was creepy and mysterious and once again, looked superb! It was brilliant to see some new faces alongside stalwarts such as Sigurðsson and Þorsteinn Bachmann, and incorporating the landscape and mythologies of the country was fascinating.

NW: Finally, lets talk Icelandic music – are you a fan?
What bands have you been checking out recently and recommend?

RW: Haha! I sure am.

I’m a huge Sigur Rós fan, as well as Björk. I’ve been lucky enough to see SR/Jónsi 5 or 6 times (and even met him on one of my trips – although I hear this isn’t uncommon!) and Björk at the Royal Albert Hall was insane! These lot don’t need any more publicity though – they are huge for a reason.

Recently I’ve been enjoying BRÍET a lot. Her album Kveðja, Bríet is a brilliant collection of haunting electronic pop and I love the track Fimm. (Apparently, this album won Album of the Year at the Icelandic Music Awards?!)

I’ve also listened a lot to the beautiful folk music being released by Elín Hall who I came across after seeing her performance in the tragic Let Me Fall (Lof mér að falla), and of course, Daði Freyr after this year’s Eurovision.

I must also give a shout-out to Dream Wife who are an incredible British/Icelandic punk band whose gigs are always riotous fun! I actually met lead singer Rakel Mjöll on my second trip to Iceland and have now seen her perform as part of three acts, Útidúr, Halleluwah, and Dream Wife. She’s a brilliant singer with a proper stage presence.

Interview by Alex Minnis

Go listen to Rob’s Kvikmyndapod podcast now on Spotify and all the other podcast hosting websites!

You can also follow Kvikmyndapod on Twitter and Instagram

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