Interview with City One Minutes filmmaker Viktoria Gudnadottir
Viktoria Gudnadottir filmed Reykjavik for City One Minutes. Her favorite video shows us the most famous hotdog stand in town: ‘I cannot watch it too often though, because then my mouth starts to water. Those hotdogs are really good!’ Viktoria was born and raised in Iceland, in a small suburb of Reykjavik. In 1996 she came to The Netherlands to study arts. Now she works as an artist with different media.
She had already made some video’s for The One Minutes (www.theoneminutes.org) when she heard about City One Minutes through an Icelandic artists’ association. She was keen to start filming for City One Minutes, especially in her former home town Reykjavik : ‘I thought it was interesting to see Reykjavik through a camera. I have been living abroad for ten years now, and I only visit Iceland in the summer – almost like a tourist. But sometimes I see things that have changed in the last year, that the residents or ‘regular’ tourists wouldn’t see.
With her video’s, Viktoria offers viewers ‘little windows to the city’, of places that stood out to her. She shot a lot of film material at these locations. ‘Afterward I had a hard time choosing the minutes I wanted to show.’ She learned to be patient while filming, and how to search for ‘that one minute’ that best captivates the hour.
There is one place in Reykjavik she immediately knew she wanted everybody to see: ‘The famous hotdog stand in the city centre. Even Bill Clinton has visited it, when he was still president. I always go there when I’m craving a hotdog. It’s a real experience, and it has not changed one bit in all the years that it’s been there. The surroundings can change, but the hotdog stand always stays the same. At noon it becomes very busy. People in big cars pull over on the sidewalks, and jump out just to buy a hotdog. Very funny to watch!’
Another location that stood out was a very quiet spot in the middle of the busy town centre.
The video of this location features tourists from abroad. Tourism has flourished in Iceland over the last years. ‘Very good for the Icelandic economy,’ according to Viktoria. Iceland has had a rough time with the economic crisis. A lot of building projects have been stopped. A good reason for Viktoria to film at the building site of the university: ‘I saw work on the new university buildings was still in progress. The big cranes against the bright blue sky were a beautiful scene. And the expensive looking sports car that drove away, could be a symbol for the money that’s no longer there. What stays behind is a buiding site, where everything moves in slow motion.’
While Viktoria was filming in the summer of 2009, Icelandic political affairs were all about joining the European Union and the first ‘Icesave contract’. Speaking to friends and acquaintances, the influence of the economic crisis became very clear: ‘I was especially struck by the stories of people that can no longer pay for their loans and mortgages. Around Reykjavik you can see all the half built houses, and no one knows when or if they will ever be finished. Basic social services like schools and health care are deteriorating as a result of the crisis, which is very sad.’
But walking in the sunlit city centre it was like nothing ever happened: ‘People are cheerful, especially when the sun is shining. A lot of Icelanders think: “It is not our fault, so live goes on.”’
Viktoria also filmed a man, protesting outside the parliament building (it can be viewed on her website, http://www.viktoriagud.com). ‘I chose not to admit this video for City One Minutes. The crisis and the problems with Icesave are nothing to be proud of. That’s why I did not like the idea of showing this side of Reykjavik to the City One Minutes viewers. The only symbols of the crisis in my video’s are the expensive cars you can sometimes see. Most of them have been bought with loans that people are not able to pay back anymore.’
With the City One Minutes video’s Viktoria wanted to emphasize the ‘bright side of life’ in Reykjavik: ‘When the sun shines it is a very pleasant city. People go outside all the time, and the small city centre becomes a very lively place. I have noticed there has been a lot more activity in the centre over the last years. When it is nice and sunny , sometimes companies in Reykjavik even close for the day ‘due to the weather’!