Showing her vibrant documentary, Band, we are so thrilled to host Icelandic filmmaker and band member Alfrun Ornolfsdottir at the 58th Chicago International Film Festival. The wonderfully heartfelt documentary follows her own band, an all-female, electro-punk Icelandic group, called Post Performance Blues Band through all their adventures and misadventures as they attempt to become avant-garde pop stars. It is a spunky and delightful ode to dreams and friendship.
What prompted the decision to make this documentary about your personal history? Were there any thought-provoking conversations with your bandmates as you first started thinking about it?
“Being a part of The Post Performance Blues Band has really helped me to see humour and beauty in situations that feel shitty. We play with the concept of failing in front of an audience and try to bring something unexpected, raw, and vulnerable into our live performances. Making a film about the band trying to find success came to me originally as a survival mechanism. I was struggling with performing in a shitty bar for no money for an almost non-existent crowd as a grown-up woman with kids and a master’s degree in art. On the one hand, I loved playing with the band and really believed in what we were doing but on the other hand, I felt like a total loser. Too old to be a beginner. In order to survive this situation and justify to myself that I could keep playing with the band, I started imagining having a camera present. It is great material for a film to meet obstacles and struggle and not succeed but in reality, it is painful.”
What was it like creating a documentary that features you and a significant moment in your life? Did the personal nature provide any unique challenges or result in interesting dynamics?
“The film is very intuitive in the sense that I knew instinctively what I wanted to reveal and look at in my own life. So I didn’t really censor myself whilst shooting. The hardest thing was that I sometimes felt I could be overstepping my friends’ boundaries. As a director, you need to think about what is best for the film although Alfrun as a person felt bad about keeping the camera rolling in vulnerable moments. But I am very happy that they trusted me and were so generous in sharing a lot of personal things in the film.”
Band is your debut as a director, has it sparked a further interest in directing and filmmaking?
“I would love to make another film. I enjoyed the whole process from writing the script to shooting and then seeing it change and finding the right rhythm whilst editing. But I don’t think I could ever make a film just to make a film. I sometimes get ideas that consume me and guide me into the right format which could be a play, a song, a dance piece, or any other art form. Having said that I do have an idea for a new film called Shitballs and have already written the script.”
What has it been like watching people respond to this story?
“The first time I watched it with people I was doubting every scene and every cut and listening to the audience’s reactions whilst holding my breath. So it was a big relief to have conversations with people outside the cinema afterward and hear that people enjoyed it, connected with it, and felt inspired. I hope it changes at least one person’s life – then I think it is all worthwhile.”
Are there any filmmakers or films who have influenced your personal path and filmmaking style?
“I think the band has probably been the biggest influencer on this particular film because The Post Performance Blues Band has a very distinctive style and strong aesthetics. But I really like films that are a bit out of the ordinary, play with humor and surprise without wanting to name any particular director. I seek to nurture all kinds of art whether it be books, music, art, theatre, dance, or film. I also love looking at people in the street and imagining their lives. I daydream a lot, my family keeps asking if I am an alien because I tend to fall into a stare and go cross-eyed at the dinner table.”
Lastly, what was your favorite moment in shooting or creating this film?
“What I appreciate the most from the making of the film is all the inspiring, creative conversations I had with my collaborators. Saga and Hrefna from the band, of course, but also with the cinematographer, sound designer, editor, and producer. People who make the project bigger by bringing in a part of themselves and their expertise. Film is such teamwork, although the director needs to make all the final decisions, finding collaborators that understand your vision and bring something more to the table brings the magic.”
You can see Band at the festival this year, where it is competing in our Documentary Competition. Click here for further information, tickets, and screening times.