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Örn Marinó Arnarson, Left, Thorkell Hardarson / PHOTO: Markell Brothers

Icelanders flock to watch The Last Fishing Trip on local screens

Number 1 at the B.O. since early March, the comedy was created and produced outside the traditional support system by Thorkell Hardarson and Örn Marinó Arnarson.

The Icelandic top-selling film is promoted at this week’s Cannes Marché online by the Icelandic Film Centre, under the virtual Scandinavian Films umbrella.

Known as the ‘Markell Brothers’ for their collaboration spanning more than two decades, Thorkell Hardarson and Örn Marinó Arnarson founded their company Markell Productions in 2001.

The partners who share a long experience in documentary filmmaking, had their international breakthrough with the film Feathered Cocaine which world premiered at Tribeca in 2010 and won a national Edda for Best Documentary. 

The Last Fishing Trip (Síðasta veiðiferðin) is their first fiction film.

Released March 6 by Myndform, 16 days before the local cinemas closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic,  the comedy was an immediate success and despite the six-week cinema shut down, it has sold more than 25,000 tickets, making it the biggest local hit since Let Me Fall in 2018 (52,901 admissions). Last weekend in its 16th week on screens, the comedy was still number 1 at the B.O.

The comedy tells of six friends on their annual fishing trip, who realize that leaving wives, work and worries at home is actually hard work. What was supposed to be a cozy fishing trip turns out to be a downward spiral to hell.

The cast comprises Þorsteinn Bachmann (Trapped, Life in a Fishbowl), Halldór Gylfason (Happily Never After), Hilmir Snær Guðnason (A White, White Day), Jóhann Sigurðarson (Trapped, Woman at War), Hjálmar Hjálmarsson (Remote Control) and Þröstur Leó Gunnarsson (Noi Albino, White Night Wedding).

The Markell Brothers tell us about their film and upcoming projects.

Your film was released just before the cinema shutdown in Iceland and it still is the biggest local hit in two years. How do you explain this success?
The Markell Brothers: It’s a great comedy, which are super rare in Iceland, and people are hungry for a good laugh. The film has also a multi-layered approach to all sorts of issues, so you can scream with laughter while simultaneously having a deeper experience. If you want to, that is.

Why was the film made outside the tradition support system?
TMB: When we made the decision not to wait for the traditional support system and rather find a way to finance the film in our own way and at our own super-fast pace, we felt a lot of freedom. Then we got a fantastic cast and managed to secure a few fundamental key crew members. Once we had secured these cast members, a lot of doors opened. That was a pivotal moment, because we had been building our production model for a few years, revolving around the phenomena of how to finance comedies outside the traditional system. We put the model to work in The Last Fishing Trip and checked all the boxes.

Can you detail how you raised the financing?
TMB: By knowing exactly what you need, you can shoot very fast without resorting to a low budget look. We shot the film in 17 days, mostly with nine-hour working days. The €500,000 film was shot mostly in and around Myrarkvisl River in the North-East of Iceland. We rented the river for two weeks and said to the actors that they could fish all they wanted when they were not working. That was quite the motivation for them.

Negotiating the rest was pleasant. A film with six middle-aged male main characters is somehow not the sexiest thing for film funds nowadays, so we decided not to go with the traditional funding apparatus. That also made international co-production very difficult. A key collaborator was distributor Myndform (also on board our next two films) Their input is very precious, as they are in direct contact with the market. Our core audience is the ‘common people’, so, we kissed goodbye to all attempts of being arty and aimed for laughter instead.

Do you feel there is a lack of broad comedies for the wide audience in Iceland, and that you’ve filled a gap in the market with The Last Fishing Trip?
TMB: Our aim is to produce one comedy film every six months. We feel that all kinds of films should be made and that too much of art cinema will scare the audience away and actually damage the brand “local cinema”. A variety of films on offer is the key to a successful national cinema and frowning upon comedies should really be a thing of the past.


Icelanders flock to watch The Last Fishing Trip on local screens

What’s next?
TMB: Early July, we are premiering a new comedy shot in January: Amma Hófí (Granny Hofi). We’re producing and Gunnar Björn Guðmundsson [Astrópia] is writer/director. It’s the story of geriatrics who perform a bank heist to buy their own house and escape the retirement home.

Then mid-July, we start shooting the female answer to The Last Fishing Trip called…The Last Stitch n’ Bitch. It will be directed by Gagga Jonsdottir. It’s about five women who decide to spend a weekend in a summerhouse and everything goes to hell in an extremely efficient manner.

Finally next summer, we will shoot a sequel of The Last Fishing Trip, hopefully with a bigger budget.