Director: Þorfinnur Guðnason, Andri Snær Magnasson
Duration: 89 min.
A nation standing at cross-roads. Leading up to the country’s greatest economic crisis, the government started the largest mega project in the history of Iceland, to build the biggest dam in Europe to provide Alcoa cheap electricity for an aluminum smelter in the rugged east fjords of Iceland. Today Iceland is left holding a huge debt and an uncertain future.
Dreamland is an Icelandic documentary directed by Þorfinnur Guðnason and Andri Snær Magnasson. It is based on a book titled Dreamland: A Self-Help Manual for a Frightened Nation by Andri Snær Magnasson.
Tracing Iceland's economic history from its independence from Denmark in 1918 to the eve of its current economic crisis, Dreamland attempts to bring to light the environmental impact and cost of exploiting its surplus of natural energy resources. After the US decided to close their forward military base in Iceland, the government was desperate to find a way to replace the lost jobs and stimulate the economy. So they invited multinational aluminum giant Alcoa into the country with promises of cheap energy.
That's a strong premise for an important, insightful, and fascinating documentary, unfortunately it fails to deliver. The directors seem more interested in scare tactics than fact, using interviews from 'experts' who spout doom and gloom (one of which is the co-director and author himself), showing unrelated footage of Union Carbide's 1984 disaster in India, and the heavy handed attempts at pulling heartstrings by showing various farming families and random flocks of animals who are displaced by the building of the mega hydroelectric dam (including a Herzog-esque scene of a mother goose and a drowning nest of eggs) just feel manipulative and don't have the impact they should.
However, this is still worth watching if only for the stunning aerial footage of Iceland's breathtaking glacial landscapes, volcanos, and waterfalls; and a beautifully composed soundtrack by Valgeir Sigurðsson that really suits the mood of the film.