Fridrik Thor Fridriksson

Icelandic storytelling - comedy and sadness hand-in-hand

Fridrik Thor Fridriksson never studied at any film school. He became a world-known filmmaker thanks to years of experience in filmmaking. American movies influenced him the most but the Icelandic cultural heritage, including traditional Northern “sagas” with complex characters, also had a deep impact on his work. He is also the founder of the first Icelandic magazine devoted to the art of film and the cofounder of the Reykjavik Film Festival.

"I prefer that people don't try to understand my film, but rather to feel it."


Fridriksson started his filmmaking career with experimental films and documentaries in the early 1980s (Rock in Reykjavik with Björk in 1982). He founded The Icelandic Film Corporation in 1990, which has since become Iceland's most important film production company. The company produces his films, and works by other Icelandic directors and producers. His international reputation led to the company creating a network of internationally well-established co-production partner companies, including Lars von Trier's Zentropa and most recently, Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope.

“In 1968 some people went abroad to study film directing and when they returned, they transformed Iceland’s literary heritage into films. I came to the forefront of attention when I was nominated for an Oscar. That really changed things because with the money I got, I was able to build a real film studio and I began producing films.”


Fridriksson made his first feature fiction film White Whales, a story about two whale hunters, in 1987. Four years later, he was nominated for an Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film with his second feature film Children of Nature, which became the first Icelandic film ever to receive an Academy Award nomination. This was one of the main points of Fridriksson´s career. After that he made several successful feature films, such as Devils Island, Falcons or Cold Fever.

“We had invited Jim Jarmusch to come here with Mystery Train (for the Reykjavik Film Festival in 1989). He couldn’t come so he offered us the producer Jim Stark and he came. He saw my first film White Whales. He said he liked it and he wanted to work with me. He said “Can you come up with some ideas for this Japanese boy in Mystery Train (Masatoshi Nagase) because he’s eager to work again with me?” So I went to Japan to scout, you know? And in the beginning I wanted to make a film connected with whaling because Jim Stark hated people who were whalers (laughs). So I went to Japan and I was concentrating on whaling stories and selling whale meat and things like that — the same issues as today because now we are whaling again. We were not whaling in ’89. But anyway, it ended up that there was an accident here in the Highlands of Iceland: two Japanese scientists drowned. So seven years later — that was ’84 — seven years later, in ’91, people from Japan came and were performing the same ceremonies you see in the film. So I said, “Now I have an idea for a film.”


Fridriksson's feature films, spotlighting aspects of Icelandic life and culture, are full of humor, inspired by Jim Jarmusch, Hal Hartley, and the Kaurismaki brothers. 

FUN FACT: Fridrik Thor Fridriksson was starring in Lars von Trier´s The Boss of It All.