A new documentary about gays and lesbians battle for equal rights

People Like That (Svona fólk) – is a new documentary film  by Hrafnhildur Gunnarsdóttir, which premieres at cinema Bíó Paradís tonight, Tuesday November 27th. The film documents the civil rights struggle of gays and lesbians in Iceland and how the public opinion towards them has shifted 180° in the last 40 years.

Hrafnhildur Gunnarsdóttir’s film People Like That documents the civil rights struggle of gays and lesbians in Iceland for the last 40 years. Photo / Sigurþór Gunnlaugsson

Hrafnhildur started documenting the scene 26 years ago, in 1992 when she interviewed a good friend who was HIV positive and awaiting death due to complications from AIDS.
“In 1992 we were in the midst of the AIDS epidemic and my friend Björn had come back to Iceland to die. We had both studied and lived nearby each other in San Francisco some years earlier. What prompted the interview were his stories about how some of the members of the gay community reacted to him as a HIV positive person. He told me he felt branded by a lot of the gay men and that the gay community was divided into the “clean” and “unclean”. What struck me so hard was the idea that on top of having to deal with the already very prejudiced Icelandic society he felt like an outcast from the gay community as well. Certainly there was also support but this was a dimension I had not thought about. To be diagnosed HIV positive at that time equaled death, so obviously there was a lot of paranoia within the gay community.”

“What is surprising is that people might think that the gay movement was a mass movement behind this battle, but the fight was fought by a handful, maybe a dozen of people over a period of 30-40 years.”

Hrafnhildur says that this interview with her friend, whose name was Björn Bragi Björnsson, opened her eyes for the necessity of preserving this history. She also became interested in following the struggle for civil rights as AIDS really made a profound difference and put gay people on the map. The horrible situation of AIDS became the silver lining for paving the way for equal rights. So she started documenting other people who were involved on a grassroots level in pushing for equal rights for gays and lesbians and gathering material for the film.
“I made this film in spurts,“ Hrafnhildur explains. „Started 1992, as I said, and then again in 1995, 1997 and 1999. I meant to finish the film in 2005 but then I was asked to run for chair of The National Queer Organisation, Samtökin ´78. I became the chairman so I had to put the film on hold for a while. It was actually a good thing that the film got postponed because the legal battle for equal rights was not finished til 2015 so I can include that in the TV series as this film now covers 1970-1985.”

Asked if there is a red thread through the film Hrafnhildur laughs and says that it’s hard to pinpoint one thing that has been most prominent in the battle.
“What is surprising is that people might think that the gay movement was a mass movement behind this battle, but the fight was fought by a handful, maybe a dozen of people over a period of 30-40 years,” she says.

Asked when things had really started moving forward in this struggle Hrafnhildur says that along the way there were a lot of tiny steps in the right direction however the big leap was taken when the law for same-sex civil union was passed in the parliament in 1996.
“That was a turning point! Who knew a marriage law would have this wide-reaching effect, but it did! The media also helped and I was really surprised how early it was positive, yes lots of negative stuff too!

The film is shown at Bíó Paradís.

In 1977 a few guys founded Iceland Hospitality and sent a statement of purpose to the press and almost all the papers published the statement. Only one of them was very negative. That paper was called The Monday Paper and was kind of a yellow press. It used the word “ kynvillingur” which might be translated as “queer”, before “queer” became a gay word, or “sodomite”. This word was commonly used by the press until the mid 80´s. We fought to be called lesbian and gay in the press and other words followed. The majority of the discussion was on a negative note in those years,“ says Hrafnhildur.

“That was the norm in almost all the papers, except maybe in the left-wing paper Þjóðviljinn.

The first bill of rights for gays and lesbians was put to the Parliament in 1985 but was put to sleep in some committee. In the beginning of the nineties things started moving when The Women’s Party (Kvennalistinn) took the matter under its wings and a parliamentary committee was appointed by the Althingi (parliament) with the purpose to examine the legal status of gays and lesbians in Iceland. This resulted in the law passed in 1996 for same-sex civil marriage.”

Hrafnhildur says that she herself never “came out” as a lesbian but that she had told her parents in 1980 when she was 16 years old. So the story she is telling in the film is to a large extend her own story?
“Totally!” she exclaims. “I framed the film with a personal touch, because I don’t want anyone to doubt that this story is told from my perspective.”

What is the biggest change in the status of gays and lesbian since the battle started?
“The biggest change is of course that in those 40 years we have moved from total silence to being included and totally visible in society without the horrendous consequences in the past. The silence that surrounded gays and lesbians in the seventies, to the spectacle of being gay in the 80´s and 90´s to not being newsworthy – non issue in the media today. It was clearly visible when Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, former prime minister, came out as a lesbian and the Icelandic media didn’t cover that as big news. The foreign press was turned upside down, but here it was hardly mentioned at all. Nobody cared.”

Hrafnhildur does not however think that the battle is a thing of the past. She says it is necessary to be awake and be aware of how little it would take for things to go back to the old mode.
“We have to be alert all the time,” she says. “Even though we have in a sense reached the end of the road of the battle for equal human rights and the law has been changed to make us equal there is always the danger of a backlash. We see it clearly in the USA these days, and even though we could dismiss that as a sign they are not in sink with other western countries in these matters at the moment there are other warning signs. Even in the highly praised and exemplary human rights country Denmark there is a backlash going on right now. That’s a reminder of how vigilant we have to be.”

“Even in the highly praised and exemplary human rights country Denmark there is a backlash going on right now. That’s a reminder of how vigilant we have to be.”

But does Hrafnhildur think the battle is in fact won for gays and lesbians in Iceland? Lately the ban on gays donating blood has been under debate. Are there still battles to be fought for equal rights?
“I’m so old in this field,” she says with a laugh. “I really don´t understand why this has not been corrected as all donated blood is tested for HIV but then again for me this is not such a pressing issue since I think one day it will be corrected. However there are other more pressing issues such as laws about in vitro fertilisation and we need to have a discussion within the gay community about co parenting. We have seen instances of two gay and lesbian couples having a child together and we have to examine how best way to go about the legal process of that. Also the matter of surrogation is a big hush-hush here and we need to take that discussion in earnest in the next years.”

People Like That premiers tonight and will be shown in Bíó Paradís from Wednesday November 28th and later this winter a five-part TV series with the same name will air on national TV (RÚV). How is Hrafnhildur feeling about this product of hers finally becoming accessible to the public?
“I’m mostly hugely relieved,” she says and laughs again. “If I had realised back in 1992 that this would be such a long process I might have decided to have a child instead. But this film is in many ways a huge accomplishment and I’ve really done my best to try to cover the things that really mattered in this battle. But of course I’m also excited. The premiere shakes are always present when one is showing a new film. That does not change with age and experience.”

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.


Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.


    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.



        Nasdaq (Nasdaq: NDAQ) is a global technology company serving the capital markets and other industries. Our diverse offering of data, analytics, software and services enables clients to optimize and execute their business vision with confidence.

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        Blue Lagoon
        - One of the 25 Wonders of the World

        Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater
        comes from 2.000 meters within the earth where seawater and freshwater converge in a tectonic realm of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals—the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

        From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing two hotels, three restaurants, three
        geothermal lagoons, a subterranean spa, a renowned line of skin care, a thriving research center, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

        Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

        The Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

        Whales of Iceland
        - larger than life

        Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

        - leading financial institution

        Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

        The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

        Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

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        Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

        It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

        Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

        Aurora Reykjavik
        - northern lights center

          Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

          Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

          The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

          Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

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            - get inspired

            Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

            Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

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            VSÓ Ráðgjöf


              VSÓ Ráðgjöf er alhliða ráðgjafar- og verkfræðifyrirtæki sem leggur áherslu á trausta og faglega þjónustu sem tryggir viðskiptavinum hagkvæmustu lausnir hverju sinni, skilar raunverulegum árangri og stuðlar að samkeppnisforskoti.  Á skrifstofum VSÓ í Reykjavík og í Noregi starfar yfir 80 manna samhentur hópur verkfræðinga og annarra tæknimenntaðra starfsmanna.

              - for all your Apple needs

              From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

              Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
              For all your Apple needs. We are here.

              Ísey skyr
              - once tasted never forgotten

              Our Story
              Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

              For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

              Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
              This is our secret and you are in on it

              You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

              - noodle bar

              Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

              All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
              We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
              Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

              Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

              - adventure cruise

              Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
              and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

              The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.


              This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.


              The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

              Birds, possible to spot:
              -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
              -eider ducks
              -white-tailed eagle

              The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
              Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

              Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

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