UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Courtesy of Hot Docs

Dreamland

Director asks if natural beauty should be sacrificed for energy

By Lisa Van de Ven

Directed by Thorfinnur Gudnason 
and Andri Snaer Magnason
(Ground Control Productions)
www.dreamland.is


“Some say Iceland is the most beautiful country in the world,” an interviewee says. And with the stunning Icelandic landscapes on display in the documentary film Dreamland, many a viewer might end up with that same opinion.

However, Dreamland’s filmmakers Thorfinnur Gudnason and Andri Snaer Magnason aren’t just looking to show off Iceland’s terrain. They delve deep into the country’s attempt to persuade aluminum giant Alcoa to build a new smelter on its land. But with the promise of cheap clean energy and new investment comes several costs: sacrificing some of those beautiful rugged vistas and perhaps some of Iceland’s economic independence.

It’s a subject matter that showcases such a convergence of current issues that it’s hard not to feel drawn in. Iceland was among the countries hardest hit by the economic collapse of 2008. And the true price of ecological destruction in return for cheap energy and economic growth is a recurring public debate. 

But while the subject matter may be compelling, Dreamland never quite reaches its potential. A muddied narrative and an over-reliance on talking heads keep the story from truly coming alive. Watch the first 15 minutes and you’d be forgiven if you didn’t even know what the movie was about, as the film’s start veers between a history of the Icelandic economy and poetic asides on the problems with modern society. Alcoa doesn’t even come up until a third of the way through. It’s enough to leave you wondering if something in the narrative may have been lost in the film’s translation (it’s in Icelandic with English subtitles).

What do translate, though, are those sprawling shots of Iceland’s landscapes, stunning in their starkness. And the film itself — flawed as it is — provides the motivation to start rooting for this country. Because who’d want to see such beauty destroyed?

Lisa Van de Ven is a freelance writer in Toronto.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image

Society

July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots

World

June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.

Justice

June 2017

Undocumented

by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.

World

June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.

Society

April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Society

March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image