The Herring Era in film

Documentaries have been filmed in Iceland since 1904 with the oldest known still preserved from the year 1906.
The first feature film made in Iceland - Borgerslægtens historie - was shot in 1919 by Danish director Gunnar Gunnarsson and produced by Nordisk Film. The first feature film by an Icelander was a short comedy by Loftur Guðmundsson entitled The Adventures of Jón and Gvendur, from 1923. Ísland í lifandi myndum, was the first Icelandic documentary and it premiered two years later. The impact of the herring fishing industry played a significant role in such films for many decades. One gets a vivid picture of how great an influence and impact the herring fisheries and associated industries had on the nation as a whole. Siglufjörður played an essential large role in this history.

These films are unique sources, capturing an extraordinary time in the country's history - a time when the nation pushed the boundaries of its earliest economies and entered the modern era.

Photographer Loftur Guðmundsson (1892-1952) created the first known documentary about the country, Ísland í lifandi myndum, in 1925 - filmed throughout the country over the summer of 1924. The film is silent with explanatory texts between segments. A large section of it focuses on herring and the commercial life of herring docks in Siglufjörður in particular. In the period from 1936-38, Guðmundsson documented herring fishing, salting, rendering and exporting. The full length film can be seen at the museum. Below is a short clip:

Loftur Guðmundsson

Captain André M. Dam, a Captain in the Danish Navy, traveled to Iceland during the summers of 1938 and 1939 and worked on the promotional film, Billeder fra Island. A cinema version with a run time of approximately 50 minutes was completed and set to music of the era. A silent movie incorporating material from both versions was released on 16mm film during the war (around 1941) under the title Den underfulde ö for educational purposes. After 1938 the final cut was edited into a shorter English version entitled Iceland and screened at the World Expo in New York in 1939-40. Billeder fra Island was released in German under the title Island, Paradis des Nordens. The short English version is a concise and fascinating documentary. It may also have been included in a 1939 special screening at the Billeder fra Island in Siglufjörður's theater Nýja Bíó. All versions of the film are preserved at the Film Museum of Iceland and the Danish Film Museum. A short clip follows and the full length film can be seen at the museum.

Captain Dam

Sigurður Guðmundsson (1900-1986) filmed this movie in Siglufjörður in 1941. The approximately 12 minute film included here is shot in color on 16 mm. The film is shown at the Herring Museum and preserved within the archives of the Film Museum of Iceland. A short clip follows:

Sigurður Guðmundsson

Magnús Jóhannsson shot a 5 minute film of the herring piers of Siglufjörður in 1957. The film is shown at the Herring Museum and preserved within the archives of the Film Museum of Iceland. A short clip follows:

Magnús Jóhannsson

Woody and Steinunn Wasulka shot Síldin á Seyðisfirði - a Czech documentary that vividly captures the life and environment of the herring industry in Seyðisfjörður in 1964. Run time is 12 minutes, in black and white. A dvd is available for sale at the Technical Museum in Seyðisfjörður and at the Herring Museum. The following is a short clip:

Woody and Steinunn Wasulka