Sparrows flies home from Toronto & San Sebastian

Sparrows and the international festivals

Sparrows is a drama about Ari, 16, who has been living with his mother in Reykjavik and is suddenly sent back to the remote Westfjords to live with his father Gunnar. Here he has to navigate a difficult relationship with his father, and he finds his childhood friends changed. In these hopeless and declining surroundings, Ari has to step up and find his way.

Sparrows attracted positive attention at its world premiere at the recent Toronto Film Festival. “Sad and delicate coming of age story,” wrote Screen, “lifted well above the teen drama genre by its solid directing,” “spectacular surroundings,” “steely palette and carefully calibrated performances.”

“The poetic part and the emotions tell the story. That’s something that intrigues me more than plot,” says the director in our festival interview, which will be online on these pages from next week.

Ari is played by Atli Óskar Fjalarsson, while Gunnar is embodied by Ingvar E. Sigurðsson. The cast also includes Kristbjörg Kjeld, Björk Björnsdóttir and Croatian-born Hollywood actor Rade Šerbedžija (“Downton Abbey”).

Sparrows is written by Rúnar Rúnarsson, a graduate of the National Film School of Denmark. His feature debut “Volcano” (2011) premiered in the Cannes Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight side bar, and his student films “2Birds” (2008) and “Anna” (2009) were also selected for Cannes. Rúnarsson received an Oscar nomination for his short film “Last Farm” (2004).

The crew behind the camera includes editor Jacob Schulsinger and cinematographer Sophia Olsson, and producer is Mikkel Jersin for Nimbus Film and Nimbus Iceland, in a co-production partnership with Pegasus Pictures and MP Films.

Critical acclaim for Sparrows

Sparrows recieved critical acclaim, especially for the visual style and the depths in Ari’s character.  Here’s some excerpts:

“Sparrows allows us an unsparing glimpse into a life we might never know ourselves, and when it closes the curtain on the scene we are left only as enriched and moved as we allows ourselves to be. The final verdict on this film is like a choose your own adventure novel, where the choices are to turn away in disgust, or meditate in silent, appalled ambivalence. To a certain kind of audience, the latter option will make this a film well worth seeking out.” – Brian Roan (

“This is no generic portrait of a sensitive kid in a stifling town. DP Sophia Olsson creates a world full of visual specificity, striking in its restraint. She opens the film with a shot of a choir singing an ethereal hymn in a modern church of graceful white arches. In the fishing village, where the silence is broken by the sound of car engines or raucous party music, the characters seem stuck in wide expanses or in the confining spaces of stark family dwellings, with bottles spread across the tables.” – David D’Arcy (Screendaily)

“This place of captivating beauty (which the filmmaker was already familiar with and had borne in mind while writing the screenplay) enchants us and, through its mise-en-scène, which relies heavily on silences and glances, the movie whisks us away to that moment of personal isolation and bewilderment at which new emotions that are difficult to channel begin to domineer the existence of every teenager.” – Alfonso Rivera (Cineuropa)

See the video on the right from the press conference and photoshoot from San Sebastian