A new film written, directed and co-produced by an Eden man will be screened at Rheged, near Penrith.
Iceland is Best was created by Penrith’s Max Newsom and is inspired by the true story of a girl from the land of ice and fire leaving to start a new life in the United States.
The idea for the film came as Max was working in Los Angeles as head of development for “a fairly large film fund” and happened to be in a video rental store getting a stack of European films and noticed a girl working there watching him choose.
“Her eyes had an unusually beautiful shape and I could not tell where she came from. By the time I got to the front desk I found myself asking: ‘What is your story? Where do you come from?’
“She said she came from Iceland and I said that was amazing as I had not been there and had not met anyone in LA who had come from there.
“She said she had run away from Iceland aged 17 and had come to live in LA because she wanted to be an artist and actress. I said that would make an amazing story and asked if I could interview her to get her back story because I thought it would make a good film.
He met with the girl, who was called Sirry, in a cafe behind the video store for a number of weeks and listened to her story and took down details. She told him her story which “was a mixture of inspiring and heartbreak”.
Her home was only 2km from the airport but it took her three years to make the journey because she became sidetracked by her boyfriend who was clever, articulate and good looking and did not want her to leave. His life went off the rails and she became emotionally entangled.
She eventually made it to the airport, where he “rugby tackled” her to prevent her from leaving and broke her leg. She was so angry she did not speak to him for a few months and the next she knew he had committed suicide, resulting in her having a nervous breakdown.
Eventually, she gained enough confidence and Max says the film “encompasses all the drama surrounding leaving home especially if you are a woman”.
Max visited Iceland, which he describes as “the Lake District on steroids”, and discovered a small fishing village called Arnarstapi where the film is set.
He said the lack of daylight and the freezing weather — minus 25 degrees at times — presented problems during filming. Some of the cast were sourced from America, including Judd Nelson, who has appeared in Breakfast Club and St Elmo’s Fire; Swedish actress Helena Mattsson; and heartthrob actor Tom Maden.
The part of Sirry, who was called Sigga in the film, is played by Kristin Sophusdotter.
“It’s exactly the story I wanted to tell, even if it has come out in different colours,’’ said Max. “It’s about realising your dreams against the odds. It’s faithful to the original story in the essence but has my own experiences of trying to leave home and find my own way.
“It’s a personal and intimate story which I hope leaves people moved by the experience.
“I thought it was going to be a comedy with a beating heart but what we have ended up with is a very moving story of somebody trying to find their voice and their feet.
“The film is about somebody struggling to find out who they are.
“The script was inspired by, rather than closely based upon Sirry’s life. The notes I took were painstakingly accurate but then some poetical licence operated over the story as elements of my story and other people’s also steered its telling.
“I also thought I would add that we designed the film to be like a fairy tale of the kind one might find in a picture book: spare use of dialogue, memorable images, focus upon the faces, in a word, simplicity of telling.
“It is a licence I’ve elected to range over the story but I believe it works. I didn’t want to over-explain things but make the story feel elusive, inclusive and perhaps even universal.”
The film is going on a UK-wide tour and the first screening will be at Rheged, Penrith, on Saturday, September 25.
The full film making team will be present for the question-and-answer session to follow.
There will also be a Q&A at Keswick’s Alhambra Cinema on October 23.
Max will also be talking to pupils at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Penrith, about the film industry as a career, as well as the experience of making Iceland is Best.