Film4 Productions

Baltasar Kormakur on The Oath

16 Sep, 2016 Productions Posted in: Festivals, Toronto

As his Film4-backed Icelandic thriller The Oath premieres in Toronto, director/writer/actor Baltasar Kormakur speaks with editor Michael Leader about making films in Hollywood, returning to Iceland, and the danger of tyranny.


After making a series of films in Hollywood – Contraband, 2 Guns and Everest being three of them – you’re now back in Iceland for The Oath. What brought you back?

It’s where I grew up. It’s where I feel most true. It’s the landscape, it’s the weather – it’s who I am. When you live on an island that’s full of volcanoes… We’re living on a planet that’s alive. We are constantly reminded of that. And I need to make films in other places, but it seems like I’m drawn back – the more opportunities I get, the more I want to come back. Maybe it’s Stockholm Syndrome!

Your first film as director, 101 Reykjavik, was a very spirited portrayal of Icelandic nightlife and drug culture – now, 16 years later, The Oath takes a darker look at that lifestyle. In that time, has Iceland changed, or have you changed?

I’ve changed probably more than Iceland. It’s not that I want to be a moraliser, saying that kids shouldn’t have fun, but it’s different. Iceland didn’t used to have this culture of criminals, at all. And they weren’t celebrated in the media they way they are now. You cannot turn a blind eye because you have a nice house, and you live in a nice neighbourhood. These problems occur in every home.

But I try in the film not to take sides. It’s almost the anti-American movie. If you take all these movies where fathers go and save their kids, and bring them home still a virgin – like Taken or something – if you think that’s what you can do, and you go into that criminal world, this might be the outcome. There’s only one shot fired, and the consequences of that one shot are so great. 2 Guns is the opposite of that. You can shoot and shoot and you never see the consequences of it. I’m interested in the consequences of violence.

But at the same time, it’s a thriller. It’s about a man who’s built up the perfect life. He’s a heart surgeon, he has a beautiful wife, he has a beautiful home. But there are still some cracks, if you look deeply into it.


The character you play in the film, Finnur, tries to assert control over every aspect of his life. Power over his patients as a surgeon, power over his family, even power over his body with his intense exercise routine. You are the director, producer, co-writer and star of The Oath – is that theme of control relevant to you off-screen as well as on?

Yes, I might be directing with some big stars in America, and you’re like God and people do what you tell them, but then you come home and you can’t control your kids. You can’t control your private life.

As a producer, director, writer, owner of the company – and I built this all up – the danger of tyranny and that behaviour is everywhere. So what you have to do is let go of control. Part of that is to let the projects come to you, and not to force your style on it. I’ve heard directors talk about themselves in the third person, and it’s weird. The film will ask for what it needs – it doesn’t mean you don’t do the homework, but don’t over-prepare yourself.

It’s as simple as listening to your cast and crew. As soon as you listen to somebody, they’ll be empowered to tell you something again. And to be able to do that, you’ll need to have a lot of self esteem, so you can listen to people but then go and make your own decisions.

What did you learn from going to America and making films there? And what was the appeal?

When I did it I didn’t have a plan. I wanted to break out of Iceland, I was suffocating a little bit. I wanted a bigger market. Better financing, and stuff like that. And then you do two films like that – Contraband and 2 Guns – and then you start asking ‘what is the purpose of this? Is it only money?’

And that’s when I did Everest, which is a much more serious movie, and challenging on many levels, technical levels. And then I was offered a lot of franchises – $250 million movies. And I thought… How many steaks can you eat? It doesn’t really make that much sense to continue on a path that, yes, may make you a lot of money, but it’s not necessarily the life you were seeking. So I go home and make The Oath which is far more personal.

I’m the first Icelandic guy to have done this – so there is no path. Most of the Scandinavians before, they went there and came right back home after one or two films because they flopped. There are a lot of stories like that. On those terms, I’ve been successful – I’ve had box office hits, and each one has been bigger than the others – but where’s that going to lead me?

So what I did was, I went to Hollywood, brought some Hollywood money back, I built a studio in Iceland, and I’m now bringing Iceland to the world.

Midnight Madness opener Free Fire first of five Film4 films to screen at Toronto International Film Festival

08 Sep, 2016 Productions Posted in: Festivals, Toronto

Ben Wheatley’s high octane action thriller Free Fire kicks off the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness section tonight, the first of five Film4 backed films to screen at the festival:


World Premiere / Midnight Madness Opening Night

Massachusetts, late ‘70s. Justine (Brie Larson) has brokered a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two Irishmen (Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley) and a gang led by Vernon (Sharlto Copley) and Ord (Armie Hammer) who are selling them a stash of guns. But when shots are fired in the handover, a heart stopping game of survival ensues. Wheatley’s first US-set action picture is executive produced by Martin Scorsese.

Director Ben Wheatley

Cast Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor, Babou Ceesay, Enzo Cilenti, Sam Riley, Michael Smiley, Noah Taylor

Writers Amy Jump & Ben Wheatley, Producer Andrew Starke

Production Company Rook Films, Sales agent Protagonist Pictures



World Premiere / Special Presentation

Three generations of the Cutler family live as notorious outlaws in Britain’s richest countryside. They spend their time hunting, looting and tormenting the police. In the midst of it all, Chad (Michael Fassbender) finds himself torn between respect for his father (Brendan Gleeson) and a desire for a better life for his children. With the law cracking down on his clan, the decision might not be his to make… Music for the film is an original score from The Chemical Brothers.

Director Adam Smith

Cast Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Lyndsey Marshal, Rory Kinnear, Sean Harris, Killian Scott

Writer Alastair Siddons, Producers Andrea Calderwood, Gail Egan, Alastair Siddons

Production Company Potboiler Productions, Sales agent Protagonist Pictures


World Premiere / Special Presentation

Baltasar Kormákur plays the part of a father, who sets off on a mission to try to pull his daughter away from the world of drugs and petty crime, only to discover that danger can be found where you least expect it.

Director Baltasar Kormákur

Cast Baltasar Kormákur, Hera Hilmar, Gísli Örn Gardarsson, Margret Bjarnadottir

Writers Ólafur Egill Egilsson & Baltasar Kormákur

Producer Magnus Viðar Sigurðsson

Production Company RVK Studios, Sales agent XYZ Films


North American Premiere / Special Presentation

Star (Sasha Lane), a teenage girl from a troubled home runs away with a travelling sales crew that drives across the American mid-west selling magazine subscriptions door to door. Finding her feet in this gang of teenagers, one of whom is Jake (Shia LaBeouf), she soon gets into the group’s lifestyle of hard partying, law-bending and young love.

Writer / Director Andrea Arnold

Cast Shia LaBeouf, Sasha Lane, Riley Keough

Producers Lars Knudsen, Jay Van Hoy, Thomas Benski, Lucas Ochoa

Production Companies Parts & Labor, Pulse Films, Sales agent Protagonist Pictures

** Jury Prize winner at 2016 Cannes Film Festival; A24will release in the US on 30th September and Focus Features release in the UK on 14th October **


Canadian Premiere / Special Presentation

When a young woman unexpectedly arrives at an older man’s workplace, looking for answers, the secrets of the past threaten to unravel his new life. Their confrontation will uncover buried memories and unspeakable desires. It will shake them both to the core.

Director Benedict Andrews

Cast Rooney Mara, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed

Writer David Harrower, based on his own play BLACKBIRD

Producers Jean Doumanian, Patrick Daly, Maya Amsellem

Production Company & Sales agent WestEnd Films

Catherine Bray’s picks for the London Film Festival 2016

Sacha Lane stars in Andrea Arnold's American Honey

Sacha Lane stars in Andrea Arnold’s American Honey

This year, narrowing down my list of picks from the London Film Festival’s stellar line up has proven even more difficult than usual – there’s such a wealth of potential riches in the 2016 line-up. My colleague Michael has also contributed his picks, so for more top choices, click here – as usual, we’ve had to fight it out over some titles. Here are the 19 I managed to bag – in alphabetical order…

All This Panic, dir. Jenny Gage

I’m a sucker for an intimate coming-of-age movie, and All This Panic, which arrives in London with great buzz out of Tribeca, is exactly that in observational documentary form, filmed over three years in Brooklyn and focusing on two sisters, Ginger and Dusty, as they navigate the perils of high school politics and teen angst.

American Honey, dir. Andrea Arnold

When Andrea Arnold’s freewheeling road movie (which embeds us within a motley crew of young drifters as they travel the US scratching a living) premiered at Cannes, I was expecting many things, but not a show-stopping scene in a supermarket set to Rihanna’s We Found Love. For that – and other reasons – I can’t wait to revisit.

Divines, dir. Houda Benyamina

Divines snuck up on me. To begin with, it felt like a fairly unremarkable girls-in-the-hood yarn, but as the characters bedded in, I found myself swept up in the energy and emotion of the piece. I’m keen to see if a second viewing can replicate that rush.

Elle, dir. Paul Verhoeven

Of all the films on my list, this is the one. This is the one that I have an urgent need to re-watch which amounts to an almost physical itch. Tough, dangerous, funny, graceful, horrifying, mischievous, mortifying, it flies along on one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from Isabelle Huppert – or indeed anyone else. (Bonus content: there’s also a Paul Verhoeven ScreenTalk scheduled – expect provocations.)

La La Land, dir. Damien Chazelle

The raves greeting the world premiere of La La Land at the Venice Film Festival suggest that Damien Chazelle has not only equalled his breakout hit Whiplash, but may actually have surpassed it. Throw an appealing cast into the mix in the form of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and this could be one of the LFF’s most satisfying offerings.

Lady Macbeth, dir. William Oldroyd

Word has it that Lady Macbeth is the film that will elevate the likeable Florence Pugh to the status of bona fide star, in what is reportedly a thrillingly effective period drama driven by passion and infidelity.

LFF Connects: Television – Black Mirror
Black Mirror is one of the most exciting small screen shows of the past five years, so I’m raring to see creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones, plus Joe Wright (who directs the first episode of the new series), discuss the dystopian series live.

Manchester by the Sea, dir. Kenneth Lonergan

Starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler, Manchester By The Sea is only Kenneth Lonergan’s third film as a director. Following on from the lush epic that was Margaret, if it’s even half as good as that film, it will be well worth your time.

Mindhorn, dir. Sean Foley

Julian Barratt is MI5 Special Operative Bruce Mindhorn, who has a super-advanced optical lie detector in place of his left eye, enabling him to literally “see the truth.” Sold.

Nocturnal Animals, dir. Tom Ford

Whether you loved or loathed director Tom Ford’s glossy high-end commercial aesthetic in A Single Man, Nocturnal Animals will be worth a watch. An adaptation of Tony & Susan, a strange and compelling art house page-turner of a novel, the book’s meta-textual thriller structure should provide Ford’s visual flourishes with a more robust underlying skeleton.

Planetarium, dir. Rebecca Zlotowski

Rebecca Zlotowski’s Grand Central was a memorable Un Certain Regard entry for me in 2013, with scorching hot chemistry between leads Tahar Rahim and Léa Seydoux. Her follow-up, Planetarium, was anticipated as a likely Cannes entry this year and didn’t make an appearance, so I’m now extra curious to see what a combination of Natalie Portman, Lily-Rose Depp and supernatural shenanigans in pre-war France can offer up.

Prevenge, dir. Alice Lowe

Dating back to Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Alice Lowe has always been a talent to watch, but the electrifying response from those who’ve already seen her directorial debut about a pregnant serial killer in which she also stars suggests she’s about to take it to a whole new level…

Raw, dir. Julia Durcournau

This is one I’ve already seen, but am chomping at the bit to see again. Grisly cannibal horror meets campus hijinks in a Suspiria-esque hermetically-sealed universe, where logic bends and warps as a freshman student finds herself acquiring a taste for human flesh. A must-see.

Safari, dir. Ulrich Seidl

After training an unflinching lens on the frequently bizarre goings on in Austrian basements in off-beat doc In The Basement, Ulrich Seidl brings his darkly humorous formality and impeccable composition to the world of big game trophy hunting, in what is likely to be one of the most upsetting watches of the festival.

The 13th, dir. Ava DuVernay

Tracing the history of racial prejudice in the US justice system, Ava DuVernay’s The 13th couldn’t be tackling a more timely subject. The title refers to the 13th amendment, which supposedly outlaws slavery, but contains the notable get out clause: “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

The Autopsy of Jane Doe, dir. André Øvredal

A corpse is perfectly preserved on the outside – but inside, is dissected and burned in a possibly ritualistic mutilation. It’s a grisly, gripping set-up that evokes small screen procedurals like Hannibal, a show I’ve still yet to find an effective replacement for in my TV viewing. Perhaps this will do the trick.

The Ghoul, dir. Gareth Tunley

A splendidly twisty low-budget head-scratcher from actor-turned-writer-director Gareth Tunley, The Ghoul is an auspicious debut that announces a new voice in British filmmaking. Get in on the ground floor and catch his debut now.

Toni Erdmann, dir. Maren Ade

This three hour German comedy came completely out of the left field for me when I saw it in May. There’s very little about it on paper that hints at quite how glorious, moving and funny it is – it’s a real one-off, with everything from broad comic set-pieces to heart-wrenching father-daughter bonding. Essential.

Una, dir. Benedict Andrews

After her performance in Carol last year, I will watch literally anything with Rooney Mara in, but it doesn’t hurt that the Film4-backed Una also stars the ever-brilliant Ben Mendelsohn and is based on the acclaimed play Blackbird.


Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer starts shooting with Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman

23 Aug, 2016 Productions Posted in:

Shooting has started in Cincinnati on The Killing of a Sacred Deer,​ which reunites Colin Farrell with director/producer Yorgos Lanthimos, following the critical and commercial success of The LobsterNicole Kidman also stars as the wife of Farrell’s character, along with Barry Keoghan (’71), Raffey Cassidy (Tomorrowland), Sunny Suljic (The Unspoken), Bill Camp (12 Years a Slave) and Alicia Silverstone (Clueless).

The film is also produced by Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe’s Element Pictures, who were among the producers of The Lobster and Oscar winner Room.

Lanthimos and his regular collaborator, Efthymis Filippou, co-wrote the project. Farrell stars as Steven, a charismatic surgeon forced to make an unthinkable sacrifice after his life starts to fall apart, when the behaviour of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing turns sinister.

The film is financed by Film4 and the Irish Film Board, who were financiers of The Lobster, and New Sparta Films, whose involvement was brokered by HanWay Films. The project was developed by Element Pictures and Film4. HanWay Films is worldwide sales agent, and A24 are on board as US distributor, following their May release of The Lobster.

The Lobster won the Cannes Jury Prize in 2015 and Dogtooth won Cannes’ Prix Un Certain Regard in 2009, before going on to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

Film4-backed titles available for digital download

29 Jul, 2016 Productions Posted in:

39 titles from Film4′s library will be launched to buy or rent on iTunes and Amazon on August 1st, 2016. The collection includes classics and award-winners which will be available for digital download for the first time, bringing these culturally significant films to a new generation of cineastes.

The collection also illustrates Film4’s role in supporting the British film industry and nurturing new talent, as evidenced by the number of debut films in the collection, and the number of careers on both sides of the camera that these films have launched.

  • THE ACID HOUSE (Paul McGuigan, 1999)
  • ALICE (Jan Svankmajer, 1998)
  • ANGEL (Neil Jordan, 1984)
  • ANOTHER COUNTRY (Marek Kanievska, 1984)
  • BIRTHDAY GIRL (Jez Butterworth, 2001)
  • BLUE JUICE (Carl Prechezer, 1995)
  • BUFFALO SOLDIERS (Gregor Jordan, 2002)
  • CARLA’S SONG (Ken Loach, 1997)
  • CLOSE MY EYES (Stephen Poliakoff, 1991)
  • COMRADES (Bill Douglas, 1986)
  • CRUSH (John McKay, 2001)
  • DANCER IN THE DARK (Lars von Trier, 2000)



Dancer In The Dark

  • DEATH TO SMOOCHY (Danny DeVito, 2004)
  • DOCTOR M (Claude Chabrol, 1990)
  • FUNNY HA HA (Andrew Bujalski, 2007)
  • GERRY (Gus Van Sant, 2003)
  • HEAR MY SONG (Peter Chelsom, 1992)
  • HIGH HOPES (Mike Leigh, 1988)
  • INSTITUTE BENJAMENTA (Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay, 1995)
  • IT’S ALL ABOUT LOVE (Thomas Vinterberg, 2003)
  • LADYBIRD, LADYBIRD (Ken Loach, 1994)
  • LITTLE OTIK (Jan Svankmajer, 2001)
  • LOCAL HERO (Bill Forsyth, 1983)


Local Hero

Local Hero

  • THE LONG DAY CLOSES (Terence Davies, 1992)
  • THE LOW DOWN (Jamie Thraves, 2001)
  • MONSOON WEDDING (Mira Nair, 2002)
  • A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY (Pat O’Connor, 1987)
  • MUTUAL APPRECIATION (Andrew Bujalski, 2005)
  • MY NAME IS JOE (Ken Loach, 1998)
  • THE PRINCIPLES OF LUST (Penny Woolcock, 2004)
  • THE RED VIOLIN (Francois Girard, 1999)
  • RIFF RAFF (Ken Loach, 1991)



Riff Raff

  • SOME VOICES (Simon Cellan Jones, 2000)
  • THOSE GLORY GLORY DAYS (Philip Saville, 1983)
  • THE WAR ZONE (Tim Roth, 1999)
  • THE WARRIOR (Asif Kapadia, 2002)
  • WISH YOU WERE HERE (David Leland, 1987)
  • WITH OR WITHOUT YOU (Michael Winterbottom, 1999)


For more information, visit the Channel 4 Press site.