ponedjeljak, 17. rujna 2012.

Sigrídur Níelsdóttir - Grandma Lo-fi: The Basement Tapes of Sigrídur Níelsdóttir

Dokumentarac o ovoj islandskoj bakici koja je sve što bi zatekla u svome stanu znala pretvoriti u instrumente kojima je skladala više od 600 pjesama objavljenih na 59 albuma u vlastitoj nakladi. Naravno, lokalna kultna figura.
Pojam podrumskih snimki nije više ono što je bio.
Žena je zaista našla svoj "put sa srcem".

Grandma Lo-Fi
by Sophia Satchell Baeza

Peeling back the lace doily from her Casio keyboard, Icelandic ‘Granny Lo-Fi’ Sigrídur Níelsdóttir talks us through the different settings on her nicknamed “Entertainer”. Using kitchen appliances from around the house (such as tin foil for crackling fire, a box of buttons for drums, and an old hand-whisk for a helicopter), Níelsdóttir recorded more than 600 songs and self-released 59 albums over seven years. Over that period, she became a cult icon on the Icelandic music scene, garnering praise from artists like Bjork, múm and Sigur Ros. Three musician apprentices - Kristín Kristjánsdóttir, Orri Jónsson and Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir – spent eight years piecing together a loving portrait of the artist, who sadly died last year. As if made from felt, buttons and magazine cut-outs, Grandma Lo-Fi  is a fragile little film that does more than tribute the artist, but shows us one of those rare things in cinema: a truly happy and creatively satisfied human being.
The film is gorgeously shot in tribute to Níelsdóttir’s home-made album cover art and later collages. Filmed mainly on Super-8 and 16mm, it has a satisfying graininess and colour tint, which is reminscent of the Maysles‘ brothers Grey Gardens, though the central subject is here treated in a kinder, more sensitive way. Like one of Granny Lo-Fi‘s collages, the film is a cut-and-paste DIY candy-box of bright colours, stop-motion animation, moving collage and old photographs and films. The directors touch briefly on her life before music – although I was left wanting more - and instead gently focus in on small objects or rituals throughout that allow for her eccentricity to shine through. We see Granny dancing in her woolly slippers, eating rye bread and banana for dinner, or taking in a pigeon with a broken wing, who she later records cooing for one of her records. In one of my favourite shots of the film, we see her dragging a shopping trolley of home-made records to Reykjavik’s famous 12 Tónar record shop, whose “home-brew” section allows visitors to leave their own music, and was the main instrument in Níelsdóttir’s self-made success.
Níelsdóttir left music to create collages - wonderfully arcane and surrealistic landscapes of swans, flowers and anthropomorphic animals – which the directors here use as a backdrop for the musicians they show intermittenly playing throughout the film. For anyone not familiar with the contemporary Icelandic music scene, these scenes can be more than a little confusing. Mostly charming, they also have the visual effect of OD-ing on Crunchie bars and snapping a tooth – think sickly-sweet underworlds populated by YouTube LOL-cats tinkling away on ukeleles while beautiful Icelandic lo-fi musicians kook around in front of the camera. Of course, one man‘s hell is another‘s heaven, so I‘ll leave you to decide. The most obvious filmic parallel to Grandma Lo-Fi is Jeff Feuerzeig‘s The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005), which is a much better, and certainly much meatier film. Without knowing her music, and lacking an understanding of the Icelandic music scene, it was hard to see this film as more than a quaint and charming tribute to creativity, at any age.

One of the films sure to be an audience favorite at SXSW is Grandma Lo-Fi: The Basement Tapes of Sigríður Níelsdóttir a sweet documentary about the elderly Icelandic musical icon who didn’t even start making music until she was seventy. The film has already been screened to great acclaim—and charmed audiences—at the Museum of Modern Art New York.
Working in her living room, “outsider musician” Níelsdóttir uses a simple electronic keyboard and then creatively layers her cheerfully eccentric compositions with sound effects that she makes using common household and kitchen items. Before you laugh, that’s exactly what Pink Floyd tried to do with their aborted 1974 follow-up to “Dark Side of the Moon”—where they failed, Sigríður Níelsdóttir succeeded!
In the past seven years, “Grandma Lo-Fi” has recorded over 687 songs and released 59 albums. Sigríður Níelsdóttir’‘s unlikely cult following includes Bjork and Sigur Rós and her boundless creativity provides inspiration to younger Icelandic musicians.
Grandma Lo-Fi: The Basement Tapes of Sigríður Níelsdóttir was shot in old-fashion “low fi” film, both Super8 and 16mm.
Directed by Orri Jónsson, Kristín Björk Kristjánsdóttir, Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir. 62 min. - Richard Metzger

(Despite what Italian horrorfilms might say, it sometimes does pay to look in a basement...) 
Every year at the International Film Festival Rotterdam a fun time can be had when the audience ratings are popping up for the first time, always a few days into the festival already. The usual suspects may be on top of that list but you can rest assured at least half of the upper ten consists of titles you've never ever heard of. Happy surprises, or world premieres by yet unknown people. Often these will be documentaries impossible to catch outside of a festival.
Enter Grandma Lo-fi: The Basement Tapes of Sigrídur Níelsdóttir, a documentary about a woman who became a culty pop star in Iceland ten years ago at the ripe young age of seventy-one. And although the film never lifts the veil quite high enough to understand what's going on, the picture it paints and the woman at its center are indeed hugely entertaining. Enough so for the film to be rated an average of 4.3 out of 5 by the IFFR audience and ending up in the festival's top 10.
Who is Sigrídur Níelsdóttir and why is this film so well-received? Read on!

The Movie:
For once I will let go of my usual Story-Movie-Conclusion structure because this is a rather short documentary (even with credits it clocks in at 62 minutes) and I would have to repeat myself three times. Alternatively I could tell you every tiny detail about it, but that would spoil a lot of this movie's charm.
So let me start with what this film does NOT do. It does NOT provide you with an extensive overview of Sigrídur Níelsdóttir's life, settling instead on a few choice episodes the lady feels comfortable in talking about. For example: Sigrídur was married and spent time in Brazil but that only gets touched upon in the slightest, while an early crush of hers gets major limelight.
It also does NOT tell you how she got her cult-status, nor does it focus on her fame. People who do not know her may even wonder if she is famous at all, although the fact that she self-published 59 records is impressive in itself.
The film also does not make her out to be some sort of genius. After the umpteenth nursery-rhyme-mixed-with-electronically-altered-kitchen-sounds you might want to know what all the noise (haha) is about.
These things seem like major fails in a documentary, if that was what the film set out for. Thing is, it doesn't. Instead it tries to show how Sigrídur Níelsdóttir's creative thought processes work, where her inspiration comes from and how much fun she is having with it.
You get to see Sigrídur explain how she makes music, tell about the past, you see her creative sound effects.... her music computer is a giant machine of which she only uses less than half of the buttons ("I just start pressing things until I hear something I like..."). She comes across as just a nice old lady who has a hobby and who accidentally got mentioned by some famous people a few times.
What makes this so much fun to watch is that at all times Sigrídur Níelsdóttir has a twinkle in her eyes and harbors no illusions about the end result. On top of that the filmmakers use her drawings, collages and sketches for animations which embellish whatever is on screen. Near the end of the documentary you even get a big surprise which turns into yet another success story, and the visual aspect of the film plays a role in that.
Grandma Lo-fi: The Basement Tapes of Sigrídur Níelsdóttir lauds its "star" for doing what she does, be it brilliant or awful, and if there is a message in there it is that you could do worse things than trying to find your inner creativity, no matter in which field or art. It is a hard-to-resist little "feelgood" movie and judging by the corridor talk here at the IFFR people left the cinemas with a big smile on their face.
No-nonsense. Small-scale. Fun. Successful. Just like its subject... - Ard Vijn

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