FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES WINNERS
The Oxford International Film Festival has announced the winners of the 2007 competition.
Audience Award winning films include: Best Documentary Feature “Wrath of Gods,” co-produced by Gerard Butler and Jon Gustafsson; Best Narrative Feature “Mojave Phone Booth,” produced and directed by John Putch; Best Narrative Short “Little Gorilla” directed by Harry Kellerman; Best Documentary Short “Alex Scott, A Stand for Hope” directed by Larry Mendte; and Best Animated Film “Sam & Piccolo” directed by Adam Walker.
FilmExchange: Wrath of Gods
CAST: Sturla Gunnarsson, Paul Stephens, Wendy Ord, Gerard Butler, Eric Jordan, Michael Cowan, Andrew Berzins, Stellan Skarsgård, Sarah Polley
DIRECTOR(S): Jon Gustafsson
REVIEWED BY: Paul Little
Wrath of Gods is a very interesting take on the “behind the scenes” documentary. Director Jon Gustafsson, hired for a bit part in Sturla Gunnarsson’s film Beowulf & Grendel but who is also a filmmaker himself, decided to let his own camera roll from the moment the crew arrived in Iceland and document the entire process. What could have been simply a beautiful and scenic documentary showing off the gorgeous filming locations of Iceland, turned out to be a Lost in La Mancha-style “what went wrong” film, as financial delays and filming difficulties began immediately and plagued the production throughout its time in Iceland.
This documentary works on two levels. First (and foremost), Wrath of Gods explores all the production difficulties associated with making a feature film. There were funding problems, a sinking viking ship, car accidents, a fire, and of course the forces of nature that must be contended with when filming in the Arctic Circle (hurricane-force winds, heavy rain, giant waves, and an erupting volcano). The Beowulf cast (including star Gerard Butler, who frequently talks to Gustafsson on camera) and crew were incredibly frustrated, with some of the crew threatening to walk at various times throughout production when there were financing issues and the paycheques weren’t coming in. Assistant director Wendy Ord says, in a post-production interview, that people were definitely thinking the production was cursed. Were the gods really against this film being made? One certainly has to admire the risliance of the cast and crew for sticking through a filmmaking experience like this one.
The second level of Wrath of Gods is in its showcase of the natural beauty of Iceland, which is an absolute sight to see. In both good and bad weather (and oh, how the weather got bad), Iceland is incredibly beathtaking. Even those frustrated with the filming process, such as Butler, are amazed by the unique and powerful visuals of the country. Obviously the intent of the film was to showcase the filmmaking process, and the camera that director Gustafsson brought along with him on this trip is not the quality of those used by National Geographic in nature documentaries, but even so, the country looks amazing. It’s enough to make anyone want to book a trip to Iceland (though possibly not during the autumn when the filming took place – winds that can blow SUVs right off the road don’t exactly make for the best vacation).
Unlike the subject of Lost in La Mancha (Terry Gilliam’s planned The Man Who Killed Don Quixote), Beowulf & Grendel actually did get made. And as shown in this film, it is a testament to the men and women who forged on despite the best efforts of the gods to stop them.
UPTOWN, Peter Wesuwalla, March 1, 2007
FilmExchange in a nutshell
Wrath of Gods
I remember my frined John Kozak, who teaches film at the U of W, once saying that when you make a film it feels as though everyone in the world is conspiring against you. And, while behind every independent film (especially Canadian ones) there’s a story about how it almost never got made, the story behind Sturla Gunnarson’s Beowulf & Grendel is more extreme than most.
Jon Gustafsson’s Wrath of Gods documents a process during which everything that could possibly go wrong on a film set did – up to and including a nearby volcano becoming active.
Gustafsson wisely avoids the temptation to insert himself too deeply into his own documentary, and while the finished product isn’t quite as epic as Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams, about the making of Fitzcarraldo, it is easier to identify with the cast and crew of Beowulf. We can feel their misery and frustration – all except for that of Gunnarson himself, who has the serenity of a man who seems about to snap but never does.
Winnipeg Free Press, March 1, 2007
Wrath of Gods
THE behind-the-scenes movie documentary is a DVD staple these days, but even so, it’s rare that you’ll ever see a film that honestly reflects the gruelling challenges that sometimes face a troubled movie production.
Wrath of Gods accomplishes that task so vividly, it should have producers, production assistants and film crew vets alike rummaging through their pockets for Paxil. Directed by Jon Gustafsson, this shot-on-video doc examines the problem-plagued production of director Sturla Gunnarson’s Beowulf & Grendel on location in Iceland.
Much of the story could be told in Gunnarsson’s face, as he contends with various elemental disasters – like a sinking Viking boat, windstorms, fire, mud – and one financial one: the fight for budget capital from U.K. investors. Gunnarsson smiles as the hurdles are placed in front of him, but by the end of the shoot, the smiles start to resemble the rictus of a dead man walking… and directing.
First-timers at FilmExchange
Meanwhile, director Jon Gustafsson’s Wrath of Gods, which makes its Canadian theatrical premiere at NSI, is the only feature documentary screening at the fest this year. A short version of the doc, about the treacherous conditions in Iceland during the making of Sturla Gunnarsson’s Beowulf & Grendel, aired on CBC Newsworld in November.
See more here: http://www.playbackmag.com/articles/daily/20070205/nsi.html
Reykjavik Dispatch. 2.
Every loss for the film seems to be the gain for Jon Gustafsson, whose camera is there at every disastrous moment. The final version of Wrath of Gods reflects a composure and competence. This young filmmaker knows how to tell an entertaining story
See more here: http://daily.greencine.com/archives/002567.html
Reiði guðanna – Wrath of Gods ***
“… Eini madurinn sem aldrei lætur deigan síga er Jón Gústafsson.”
See more here: http://www.mbl.is/mm/folk/review.html?rid=912