Young Icelandic film director makes debut with Czech language film

From the movie 'Silny Kafe'

"Silny Kafe", a bittersweet comedy which takes place in that most typical of Czech settings, the weekend chalupa, or cottage, met with a positive response from critics when it opened recently. The remarkable thing about "Silny Kafe" is that it was written and directed not by a Czech, but by a young Icelandic director called Borkur Gunnarsson. I asked Mr Gunnarrson what had brought him to the Czech Republic.

From the movie 'Silny Kafe'
"I didn't know anything about the Czech Republic when I came here, except that I knew one beautiful girl who was in Iceland. She was Czech and spoke perfect Icelandic. I fell in love with her and I came with her to the Czech Republic, because she had to finish her studies.

"The deal was that I would be here one or two years, but the funny thing is the relationship didn't work out but I still kept on here. I went to FAMU [film school] and I fell totally in love with the Czech Republic, after I fell out of love with my girlfriend."

You recently released your first film. It's called in Czech "Silny Kafe"; it's in the Czech language. In English it's called "Bitter Coffee". A lot of humour depends on language. I know it's a humorous film - was it difficult to get that into the film, or did you write the film all yourself?

"Yeah, I wrote the film all myself. But the thing is it was difficult to get [the humour] into the film. But the reason why it went so well is because on the set I worked on the dialogues with the actors.

From the movie 'Silny Kafe'
"Those dialogues were most of the time what I used - they really lived it, you know. They knew their characters perfectly well, the situations, and they gave spice many times to the dialogues."

Are Icelandic humour and Czech humour similar at all?

"I think so. The humour in Iceland and here in the Czech Republic, I think it is similar because those countries are similar in many ways: we have been small nations fighting against nations that are megalomaniacal and want to conquer the world. Nobody in Iceland or Czech ever got that idea - we are too small. So we have always had to take the world with a bit of irony, and surviving by humour."

What was the reaction of the Czech audience to your film?

"It was an extreme pleasure to me, because I was of course all the time very much afraid that it wasn't that similar, the humour of Icelanders and Czechs. It is probably one of the greatest feelings I've had, at least for a very long time, walking at the premier between halls and listening to people laugh. And now going to festivals I always stay close to hear how the reactions are and it's just a great feeling."

Will it get any kind of release outside the Czech Republic?

"Yeah, it's already sold to Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, and Iceland."

Do you think you'll make another film in Czech or will you move on?

"No, I already started preparations and I will be shooting tests of a Czech film here in August."