• Festivals

Stockfish: Icelandic Talent Meets International Filmmakers

The 8th edition of the Stockfish European Film Festival runs from March 24 to April 3 in Reykjavik. The Icelandic film festival focuses on creating a platform for Icelandic talent to showcase their work and present it to an intimate international community of filmmakers.

It’s an intimate festival with industry talks and masterclasses of international filmmakers such as Brazilian filmmaker Kleber Mendonca Filho (Aquarius, Bacurau), CAA agent Federica Sainte-Rose, writer Pamela Ribon, and the Ukrainian actress Oksana Cherkashyn. Nearby, in the city of Selfoss, the festival creates the opportunity for Icelandic talent to network with international representatives of the film industry.


“Stockfish is all about connections and promoting Icelandic filmmaking and talent,” says Festival Director Marzibil Sæmundardottir. “Showing Icelandic short films to an international audience is a part of that and can be a jumping ground for further opportunities to come.”

Its main awards are for short films in the Shortfish competitions, which purpose is to allow young and upcoming filmmakers to showcase their work and help them grow further in their field.

The films are divided into four categories: Documentary, Experimental, Fiction and Artistic Music Video, with five films in each category.

The winners will be announced this upcoming Saturday and the winner of the fiction category will receive one million Icelandic króna and a one million Icelandic krona voucher for equipment rentals for their upcoming films.

The festival opened in Reykjavik’s Bio Paradis on March 24 with Ukrainian filmmaker Maryna Er Gorbach’s powerful film Klondike, setting a serious tone. Dealing with the conflict in her home country with the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash in the vicinity, the film focuses on a pregnant woman, Irka, who refuses to leave her country in spite of the growing hostility in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

“When I was watching it tonight, I was thinking how we assume that the explosion that creates a hole in their wall is a mistake,” said Oksana Cherkashyna, who plays the leading role of Irka, whose house is apparently bombed by mistake. “The same was the case with Flight MH17. The whole world thought that this was a mistake.”

The crash happened in 2014. Now, eight years later, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is no mistake. Neither is the bombing of theatres, museums and shelters, according to Oksana.

“Now, if you ask me how I perceive it, I say that the Russians know exactly where they are bombing. This is no mistake at all. The Russian military who gave the commands knows that they are killing women and children.”

Oksana Cherkashyna carried the Ukrainian flag to the opening, reminding the film community present that what they had just seen is nothing compared to today’s reality for many women like Irka.

“In comparison to what is going on in Ukraine right now, this film is very tender. When I watched the movie for the first time, I thought this was the worst that could happen to a woman, but now women are giving birth alone in bomb shelters without medicine or doctors or anything,” she said.

Irka is stubborn and does not want to leave despite the growing tensions in the region she lives in, which is close to the Russian border.

“She has an obsessive loyalty to her everyday life,” said Oksana Cherkashyna. “There is nothing that is more important to her than her everyday life. I understand it more now because my family is in Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine and my father is telling me that he will never leave. He goes each day to work, because as he says if I don’t do that it is not my life anymore.”

International talent

The festival program includes several international films. Brazilian filmmaker Kleber Mendonca Filho is presenting his three films Neighboring Sounds (2012), Aquarius (2016) and Bacurau (2019) at the festival’s Retrospective section, which is all followed by Q&As. The filmmaker spoke about how he transitioned from being a film critic in Brazilian to start writing and directing his own films.

“Is this interesting? Will anybody care?” asked Kleber Mendonca Filho in his master class about his scriptwriting process, which is evaluated by his producer Emiliee Lesclaux. “Emilee’s reaction is important,” said Filho.

Italian documentary filmmaker Emanuele Gerosa presented his film One More Jump, a film shot in Gaza and Italy that focuses on a group of young men, who seek to overcome the obstacles they face through parkour. It follows Jehad, who is longing to leave Gaza to create a life for himself in Europe and Abdallah, who has already achieved this goal but has a hard time fulfilling his dreams here.


“I entered Gaza as a member of an NGO in 2018,” explains Emanuele Gerosa. “I was checked and interrogated at the border, but it went quite smoothly. There were a few moments where we felt there could be some danger, but at the same time we were always with the guys, and we felt safe because they were never worried, and we felt they would know if there would be a reason to be that.”

Included in the list of international filmmakers is Greek filmmaker Christos Nikou, who is presenting his film Apples and Egyptian filmmaker Omar El Zohairy is at the festival with his film Feathers. American filmmaker Pamela Ribon presented her short animation comedy My Year of Dicks, a short series that runs on FX Network/Cake and Hulu in 2022, a highly personal film about fifteen-year-old Pam, who is determined to lose her virginity despite the pathetic pickings in the outskirts of Houston in the early 90s.


“One of the things I have desperately missed is going to festivals,” says Pamela Ribon. “Stockfish filled my heart with food, fun and friends from around the world in the most magical spot in the world.”