Iceland filmmaker Erlingur Óttar Thoroddsen will be going to Los Angeles next month for the North American premiere of his latest film. Rift (Rökkur), a psychological thriller set in Iceland that centres around a gay relationship, will be screened at the LGBT film showcase Outfest.
After the film’s international premiere in Gothenburg earlier this year, Rift has been garnering acclaim as it makes of the rounds of the festival circuit. But its screening at Outfest in July will be particularly special for Erlingur.
“It’s great. It’s going to be the North American premiere, and that’s very exciting,” says Erlingur, when asked what it feels like to have his film premier at the showcase.
“When the idea came about to make the movie, we didn’t have any dreams of it going anywhere. It was very small, it almost cost nothing to make, we made it in a very short amount of time. So everything that came afterward was just a bonus. So it’s been great to get recognized. We premiered at Gothenburg, we were the closing night film which was awesome. And I’ve wanted to screen something at Outfest for years now, so it’s very exciting to be a part of that now.”
Why has Outfest been on your mind for so many years?
“It’s one of the big LGBT festivals in the world. I’ve done a couple of LGBT-themed films, but it’s in the forefront of the story in Rift, whereas I’ve had a gay character or I’ve had it in the sidelines of the other films that I’ve done. So when you get the opportunity to play at one of these big LGBT festivals, you know that there’s an audience that’s paying attention. That’s the audience that I want to see this film, and that will get more eyes on the film.”
What do you anticipate the response will be to a thriller at an LGBT film festival?
“There’s not a lot of gay-themed horror films or gay-themed thrillers. Not explicitly, at least. There’s a lot of implicit or subtextual gay themes in thrillers, but I wanted to do something that was more on the surface. And for me, as a fan of horror movies and being a gay filmmaker, I wanted to do something that I’d like to personally see myself. So I hope that there are more people who want to see a film like this as well.”
“I’ve wanted to screen something at Outfest for years now, so it’s very exciting to be a part of that now … It’s one of the big LGBT festivals in the world.”
What was the response to the screening of Rift in Gothenburg?
“It was great. We had two screenings. We screened at the biggest theatre they had and we sold out both times, which was crazy. It’s that kind of a film where it doesn’t give you all the answers at the end. The intention is that you have to think about it. So it was fun to talk about it afterward and see what they were bringing to the table. A lot of times it was what I wanted them to, and other times they were like ‘Oh, I hadn’t thought of it like that,’ so that was fun.”
With the success of your first feature film Child Eater, and now the attention being garnered by Rift, do you feel like you’re gaining some momentum as a filmmaker?
“It’s very hard to tell. It’s very strange when people contact me, like I’ve gotten a few messages from random people who have seen Child Eater, which is always fun. And we’ve gotten some great press as well. But I just focus on writing and trying to make stuff. If there is some traction, that’s awesome, but I’m not sure if I’m aware of it.”
What are some of the differences you’ve noticed between working as a filmmaker in Iceland compared with working in the United States?
“In Iceland because it’s so much smaller, and everyone knows someone, things are a little bit easier. In the U.S., and especially in New York, you need a permit for everything. If you want to shoot in someone’s house, even if they’re not going to charge you you’re going to have to pay for the insurance. Whereas in Iceland there was a more relaxed feeling about rules, but that may also be because Rift was a very small production. It might be different if you were showing up with a big group of people, but this was just a ten person crew.”
What’s next for you after Outfest?
“Right now I’m working on two projects. I’m adapting the novel Kuldi (known abroad as The Undesired) by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, which is the most exciting thing I’m working on right now is. It’s kind of a stand-alone follow up to “Ég man þig” (I remember you), which is in theaters now. It’s got a similar structure, but it’s a very different, and very creepy, mystery-thriller. More news on that soon!
I’m also finishing a script that will also be filmed in Iceland, but in English. It’s kind of in between what Rift is and what Child Eater is. It’s more of a straight up horror film than Rift but it’s got more things going on than Child Eater. But it’s also just a matter of seeing what will happen now that Rift is playing at these festivals, maybe it will open some doors and I’ll meet people through that. A lot of this career is just being in the right place at the right time, and you never know what’s going to set you off in a different direction. So I just try to keep an open mind and go with the flow.”
When will Rift be available for people to watch in Iceland?
“It’s coming out in theatres in Iceland on October 27, right before Halloween.”
Rift will have its North American premiere in Los Angeles at Outfest, which runs from July 6-16.