Posted by: Ben Hopkins | 26/02/2010

Q&A: Julius Kemp

As 2009 drew to a close, I asked many of Iceland’s leading filmmakers a number of questions about the local film industry as well as their own work. This was for a feature focusing on Icelandic film talent that ran in UK music magazine Clash that you can read online right here.

Next up is Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre director Julius Kemp. An early interview with him can be read here, while more can be found about his projects at

Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre was a hit in Icelandic, reaching #3 on the local box office and has also earned various international distribution deals. So far, has its success lived up to your expectations?

Yes it has so far, and foreign sales have actually exceeded my expectations and hopefully there is more to come – Berlin and Cannes are just around the corner.

Do you think a British audience will embrace the idea of an Icelandic horror film?

The UK distribution is in the hands of E1 Entertainment. I strongly believe that the UK audience will have fun with this film.

Various Icelandic bands have found an audience in the UK (Bjork, Sigur Ros, mum, Minus, Emiliana Torrini and various others), but hardly any Icelandic films have been released here despite there being a healthy appreciation of international cinema. What would you say are the reasons for this?

The UK market is one of the most difficult in the world to sell to – you even have problems releasing UK movies in the UK. I’m not sure who are the owners of the cinema chains in the UK are now, but it used to be US studios – and that is one of the problems.

Can Icelandic film offer something new to an international audience? What are the nation’s main strengths and weaknesses in filmmaking?

We have a lot to offer, endless stories, English humour and Icelandic are quite similar and the craft and technical skills in Iceland are now at an international standard. Our weakness is that we are too few so very very very expensive movies are not made in Iceland without a major international backup.

Despite Iceland’s recent economic problems, the film industry seems to be flourishing. Why is this? Does such a situation inspire creativity in spite of creating more practical problems?

All art in Iceland is now flourishing, it has never been better; writing, painting, design, photography, music, all kinds of new things coming up – it´s really exciting times. But if the economic problem continues for many years the film making will suffer, because it is the most expensive art form.

The government has recently announced cuts in its financial support of the film industry. Will this kill the Icelandic film industry just as it has the potential to grow into a useful export? What impact will this have upon your own work?

As I said, we can probably take the hit for one year, but not for much longer. For me, I, like so many others in Iceland, will just have to see what happens. We are few and very dynamic so in bad times we are quick to adjust, react and turn the situation in our advance.



  1. […] Harpoon, presumably to help Brits who can’t spell Reykjavik when searching for it at Amazon, Julius Kemp’s Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre offers something a little different as it presents Icelandic […]

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