By Hallfríður Þóra Tryggvadóttir

28 March 2019 - 11:46

Character from the short film I (ÉG) in a bath, viewed from above
'When I think of Iceland, I think of hot water, mountains and steam coming from the ground.' Photo ©

Hallfríður Þóra Tryggvadóttir and Vala Ómarsdóttir

The short film I (ÉG) follows a trans character through the Icelandic landscape. Hallfríður Þóra Tryggvadóttir directed and wrote the film with Vala Ómarsdóttir, in close collaboration with Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir.

What role did nature and the elements have in I (ÉG)?

When I think of Iceland, I think of hot water, mountains and steam coming from the ground. Water is a part of our daily lives; we swim, have long showers, and go to community hot tubs.

The trip from the countryside to Reykjavík, Iceland's capital, is inspired by trips that Ugla, whose story inspired the film, took to London. They went there to visit friends who they knew through a computer game. In video games, you can create a persona who is similar to the way you see yourself, and that can be liberating. 

I (ÉG) is a big story told in 15 minutes. So, instead of having the lead character travel to London, we sent them on a journey to Reykjavík from the Icelandic countryside.

There's a strong theme of acceptance amongst the three characters in I (ÉG). 

The characters are inspired by true relationships, and by Ugla's experiences. 

We decided to leave the relationship between the lead character and one of the other characters ambiguous. The character, who could be a best friend or a partner, is inspired by Ugla's friend who supported them when they were coming out.

The grandmother is an example of the acceptance that comes with knowledge and wisdom. 

Iceland has a lot of small communities, where people have known you in a specific way since childhood. But when the main character goes to the city, there are people who have never seen them before. 

The dance scene in Reykjavik is inspired by a party that Ugla went to in London. 

Your main character's body language changes depending on their surroundings. Why did you make that choice?

Vala and I wrote and directed I (ÉG) together. We had seen documentaries about trans people which were entirely fact-based. We wanted to create something poetic. So, we tried to show the lead character's emotions through body language rather than just words. 

You look at the lead character and you see how they feel, and how they transform when they get to be themselves. It can be much more powerful to see a person dance, than to hear a person say 'I'm free'. 

How do you direct an actor in such a physical performance?

Vala and I have theatre backgrounds, and we've both performed. 

We went through every scene with the actors, and all the emotions that the character is going through. We practised different walks, depending on the character's feelings. 

We had a lot of conversations before each scene. 

It's also helpful to allow the actor to connect the scene with something from their life. As a director, you have to help the actor to find the feelings.

What representation have trans and non-binary people had in Icelandic television and film?

There isn't enough fictional film with trans characters, or made in collaboration with trans people. 

Trans women are often played by men, and we tried to avoid that in our casting and storytelling.

In the future, we want film to be made in collaboration with trans and non-binary people. We want more people to tell their story.

We also had an all-women film crew. We're hoping that will lead to further opportunities for that crew, which in turn could lead to more diversity in film. 

The Bill on Sexual and Gender Autonomy is before the parliament in Iceland. It includes the right to select your gender identity and to use non-binary pronouns in passports. 

Change begins with a conversation, and with people standing up for trans and non-binary people. And, all of us trying to change the view that gender can only be female and male.

#FiveFilms4Freedom, the world’s widest-reaching LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) digital short-film programme returns from 21 to 31 March 2019. 

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