Writer, director and actress of Icelandic music mockumentary film ‘BAND’ tells us about her ‘big little story of triumphant sisterhood’

Described as “the make it or break it story of an all-female Icelandic art rock band that probably will not make it and isn’t really a band”, BAND is a funny and heart-breaking ‘mockumentary’ about three women on the brink of 40, juggling the pressures of motherhood with one last attempt at making their music career dreams come true, while finding beauty and friendship in failure.

Written, directed and starring Álfrún Örnólfsdóttir, BAND is her debut film as a director. Nordic Watchlist spoke to her about making the film, the real band that it’s based on, and her watchlist recommendations.

Nordic Watchlist: What would be the best way to describe the Band?

Álfrún Örnólfsdóttir: BAND is a film about the beauty of failing. It is a cool, powerful and humorous music film about up-and-coming 40 year old women looking for success.

Nordic Watchlist: How blurred are the lines between fact and fiction in the film?

Álfrún Örnólfsdóttir: The band is real. The film is about performance, so some elements in the films are very staged and some are re-enacted.  

With a camera present it is hard to tell if people are being completely truthful or performing a version of themselves but I think everyone means what they say – although I can’t be certain. I love it that people are not sure if it is true or not – it is exciting for me. I wanted my documentary to feel like fiction.

Nordic Watchlist: When did the idea for the film come about and the decision to start filming?

Álfrún Örnólfsdóttir: The band is the funniest, craziest, and most amazing project I have ever been part of. There were moments when we were on stage with 5 people in the audience in some shitty club and I thought to myself, what am I doing with my life?

Then I looked at my super talented bandmates who were killing it on the stage. But in order for this humiliation to be okay with me I imagined if we had a camera present and started documenting our performances and conversations.

It developed over a long time starting with me filming everything we did on my phone and thinking about what it was exactly I was trying to capture to being shot on an Alexa mini with a fantastic DOP.   

Nordic Watchlist: The film has been likened to This Is Spinal Tap – and we think there are strong Flight of the Conchords feels too?

Álfrún Örnólfsdóttir: I love both Spinal Tap and Flight of the Conchords. I  like weird music films and comedy, anything quirky that challenges conventions. So I am happy if BAND has the feel of a mockumentary even though it is a true story.

Might we get to see you and the band perform again in the future? We’d love to see you perform over here in the UK!

Álfrún Örnólfsdóttir: The PPBB (The Post Performance Blues Band) would love to be invited to play outside of Iceland and get a taste of what success might feel like. Last time we tried to make it in the UK we spent much more money than we earned. But the audience seemed to like us.

What have you been watching, reading, and listening to recently? Any recommendations?

Álfrún Örnólfsdóttir: I have been listening to a lot of French music lately to find music for a production of the play Une heure de Tranqullité by Florian Zeller that I am directing in Iceland and I re-discovered that I am a Serge Gainsbourg fan. 

I wish I had more time to read since I love it. If I get into a book I want to immerse myself in it for hours so I mostly read on planes or on vacation. I recently read a fantastic novel, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk.

A few films that I watched in the last few months have really stayed with me Triangle of Sadness, Drive my car and the documentary Fire of Love.

BAND plays this Saturday in Competition for Best Documentary at Nordisk Panorama

Interview by Alex Minnis