Ragnar Bragason, Director of Metalhead: 2014 Heartland Film Festival Interview

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Ragnar Bragason is one of Iceland’s most popular and critically acclaimed filmmakers of the younger generation. He is best known for his twin feature-films Börn (Children) and Foreldrar (Parents) and the popular TV series trilogy “Næturvaktin” (The Night Shift), “Dagvaktin” (The Day Shift), and “Fangavaktin” (The Prison Shift). Ragnar, born Sept. 15, 1971 and grew up in the village of Sudavik and started out making short films in college. After directing a large number of music videos for both local and international artists, he made his first feature-film Fíaskó (Fiasco) in 2000. In his work Ragnar uses methods similar to those of Mike Leigh and John Cassavetes of working with actors to create characters and screenplays through improvisation. His work has been nominated numerous times for The EDDA Annual Film & TV Awards in Iceland and has received awards 24 times. Fíaskó was awarded Special Jury Prize at the Cairo International Film Festival in 2000. Börn won the Golden Swan for Best film at Copenhagen International Film Festival in 2007 and the award for Best Direction at the Transilvania International Film Festival in 2007.

HFF: What is your film about, and how did the project come to be?

RB: In short Metalhead about a girl, cows and heavy metal. Jokes aside it’s about the different ways we deal with grief and how art can be used as a way. I carried the idea of making a film that would portray my love of the music and reflect things that I’ve gone through [for a long time.]I grew up in a small village way up north in Iceland and listened a lot to metal. I bought my first Iron Maiden album at the tender age of 11 and there was no turning back. Metalhead is my fifth film, and it wasn’t until I met the lead actress, Thora Björg, that an image in my head of a girl, dressed in leather holding a guitar and surrounded by cows, started to evolve.

HFF: This year’s tagline is “Shift Your Perspective” – what lasting effect will your film have on moviegoers?

RB: Film is perceived in such a different way for each person who sees it. If the story and its catharsis will affect at least one person in a positive way, I’m a happy camper. I think it’s an emotionally rewarding film, and I hope it will take people on a transformative journey.

HFF: What has inspired you to become a filmmaker?

RB: As a young kid I wanted to become a writer. I was hugely influenced by writers like Dickens, Dahl and Stevenson. I wrote a lot, short stories, short plays, and I dabbled in theater and music. But it wasn’t until I saw David Lynch’s Wild at Heart in my late teens that I decided to pursue film. Film combines everything that I have passion for.

HFF: What is something that you know about filmmaking now but you weren’t told when you started your career?

RB: Everything I would say. When I started I didn’t know anything about the craft or the technical elements. I didn’t go to film school, so I had to learn by trial and error.

HFF: What are some of your favorite movies? What’s your favorite worst movie (you know it’s bad, but still love it)?

RB: As a film buff my list would be very extensive. To name a few I could mention Night Of The Hunter, The Shining, Taxi Driver, Amarcord and Naked, but that would just scrape the surface. My favorite worst movie would be something by John Waters, like Cry Baby. Or John Carpenter’s (one of my favorite directors) They Live! I also love The Rocky Horror Picture Show, really bad but fun as hell.

HFF: How many film festivals has your film been a part of? What do you like the most about the festival experience?

RB: Don’t know exactly, maybe around 30 or 40. I love meeting the audience afterwards for a chat and to share the experience.

HFF: Heartland Film Festival moviegoers love filmmaker Q&As. Let’s say a Festival attendee wants to earn some brownie points—what is a question that you’d love to answer, but haven’t yet been asked?

RB: One could be: “Why do you think it’s important to make films about interesting, strong and flawed female characters?” Other: “Did you really go bald in your teens?”


See Metalhead at the 2014 Heartland Film Festival:

  • Saturday, Oct. 18 – 8:00 pm at AMC Castleton Square 14
  • Sunday, Oct. 19 – 7:30 pm at AMC Traders Point Showplace 12
  • Tuesday, Oct. 21 – 12:45 p.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14
  • Friday, Oct. 24 – 6:30 at AMC Castleton Square 14
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