Iceland Iceland Iceland. They have so much to envy: gorgeous environment, the Viking thunder clap, and a team that performed at the highest international stages despite a population of around 350,000 and being coached by a dentist.
Many have analyzed the source of Iceland’s football excellence, and much of it comes down to how the country develops its children. The Falcons is by no means an instruction manual on youth development, but it inculcates and reflects Icelandic values, which I think is an important basis for the national team’s success.
The book and the tournament
The film is based on Fótboltasagan mikla , “The Great Football Saga”, a series of children books written by Gunnar Helgason. The first book covers a few days in the kids’ lives as they compete in Orkumótið í Vestmannaeyjum, an annual youth football tournament held on Iceland’s volcanic Westman Islands. Many of Iceland’s national team players, male and female, competed in this tournament when they were young.
In the story, 10 year old Jón loses his soccer ball to an opposing team’s big bully Ívar. When Jón tries to get the ball back, he witnesses Ívar being physical abused by his alcoholic father. Jón and his new friend Rosa report the abuse to the island police, but it turns out that the chief is Ívar’s uncle, who suppresses the report. When the abuse continues, the children figure out how to help Ívar, even while they help their respective teams advance to the medal games.
Much like Iceland — a model democracy that survived a financial crisis — The Falcons is a family film that expresses themes of diversity and transparency. Address problems openly and solve them with group support and action. Winning is not as important as being a good person. And then there’s that thunder clap.
The football in the film is filmed as if it were quick burst rapid fire photographs. As a result, the soccer scenes convey the sense of action rather than show real game sequences. To prepare for the action shots, Director Bragi Thor Hinriksson had the kids train for 4 weeks, which also cemented relationships.
BTW, if you travel from the USA to Europe, I strongly suggest you make time to visit Iceland on your way there or back. A beautiful country and friendly people who constantly adapt to issues of limited resources, living with volcanoes, and harnessing thermal energy.
One of the themes in the film is about Jón’s learning to overcome his fear of taking a penalty kick. But if you really want to improve your PKs, listen instead to Josh Schneider-Weiler’s interview of sports psychologist Geir Jordet.
The original title is Víti í Vestmannaeyjum, which translates as “Penalty in the Westman Islands”, which is the title of the first book in “The Great Football Saga” (aka The Great Football Adventure).
In Icelandic with English sub-titles
7 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 7