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Pic production floes in Iceland

Gudmundsson leads way with "The Seagull's Laughter"

COPENHAGEN — Local film production is booming in Iceland — a country with only 274,000 population, but which has boasted an average volume of four to six feature films annually since the Icelandic Film Fund (IFF) was established to support local cinema.

This month, Agust Gudmundsson, a founding father of Icelandic film — his “Land and Sons” (1980) is considered the first Icelandic feature of modern times — will start principal photography for “The Seagull’s Laughter,” produced by his own Isfilm, with Denmark’s Alien Prods., Germany’s Hope & Glory and the U.K.’s Archer Street.

“Gudmundsson’s project spearheads another 11 feature film productions which will shoot between spring and next year,” says managing director Thorfinnur Omarsson, of the IFF, which is subsidizing all 12 titles. “I could not imagine a better way to follow up on last year, which was in many ways significant to the Icelandic film industry.”

In 2000, local market share went up from 5% to 17%. Three domestic titles — Fridrik Thor Fridriksson’s “Angel of the Universe,” Robert Douglas’ “The Icelandic Dream” and Baltasar Kormakur’s “101 Reykjavik” — were among the country’s top 10 films, at Nos. 1, 3 and 8, respectively. And Icelandic filmmakers received three European Film Awards for acting (Bjork two, Ingvar Sigurdsson one).

Ubiquitous in the country’s cinema, Fridriksson’s company, the Icelandic Film Corp. (IFC), will produce Maria Sigurdardottir’s “Regina,” a musical-comedy written by former Sugarcube Margret Ornolfsdottir and Sjon (who is nominated for an Academy Award with Danish director Lars von Trier, for their lyrics in von Trier’s “Dancer in Dark”).

Fridriksson will himself direct “Falcons,” produced by the IFC with Norway’s Filmhuset, Germany’s Peter Rommel and the U.K.’s Film & Music Entertainment. The story of two society outsiders — an Icelandic ex-prisoner and a young Polish woman, who team up with a falcon at Hamburg’s Red District of St. Pauli — was written by Einar Karason, of “Devil’s Island” fame.

The IFC is also backing “Cold Light,” a drama from “Tears of Stone” director Hilmar Oddsson, as well as Marteinn Thorsson’s debut, “1.0” (referring to a version of a computer software program), and Halldur Hegason’s first feature, “Ice Landing,” set in the island’s snowy outskirts and described by Omarsson as ” ‘Die Hard’ on ice.”

For the first time, Fridriksson will direct a film for another Icelandic company, Zik Zak Filmworks’ “Niceland,” from Huldar Breidfjord’s love story of two mentally retarded youngsters trying to find the true meaning of life.

Zik Zak also is preparing Dagur Kari Petursson’s debut, “Noi the Albino,” to be produced with Denmark’s M&M Prods. and Germany’s Co-production Office.

Blue Eyes, the new production company set up by Variety “Director to Watch” Kormakur, has two features in the pipeline: Kormakur’s own “The Sea,” from Olafur Simonarson’s stage play, and Icelandic-French director Solveig Anspach’s “Stormy Weather,” which will shoot on the Vesmann Islands and in New York. Anspach’s first, “Battle Cries,” was screening in Cannes.

Director-producer Julius Kemp’s Icelandic Filmcompany will continue its collaboration with Douglas for his romantic comedy “A Man Like Me — A Woman Like You,” and Magus is packaging Danish director Peter Ringgaard’s “Differences Alike,” based on the 1970s’ cod war between Iceland and the U.K.

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