Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘The Seer and the Unseen.’

Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘The Seer and the Unseen.’

Ever since seeing Grímur Hákonarson’s Rams in the fall of 2015, I have made a pointed effort to keep my eyes peeled for the next great Icelandic film. Sadly, after seeing The Seer and the Unseen, I will personally have to keep looking. The topographical beauty of the small Scandinavian island is clearly on display here, but the subject matter remains disjointed and a bit muddled, ultimately obfuscating the effectiveness of the film.

The topographical beauty of Iceland is evidently under threat in Sara Dosa’s feature documentary. There are several threads that the film attempts to weave together. One, is the cause and effect of a devastating financial collapse that has left a traumatic scar on the island nation. Another is a series of environmental protests against a planned road development through a lava field. The main focus is neither of those storylines, but rather, the activist work of Ragga Jónsdóttir who claims to be clairvoyantly linked to hidden elves, or the Icelandic huldufólk (hidden people). While these storylines collide when Jónsdóttir protests the displacement of a scared huldufólk boulder, the diverging paths feel unbalanced in terms of both importance and engagement.

Arguably, Dosa uses Jónsdóttir’s activism as an emotional tie to the plight of the island. The financial collapse and the environmental protests, however, are engaging enough to stand on their own. Do we really need more of an emotional link to an island, whose beauty is magnificently displayed throughout the film, aside from simply knowing that urbanized developments will irrevocably alter the landscape? In some respects, the film could be seen as charming. At the same time, it could also be seen as facile, which removes much of the weight from this documentary.

This post was written by
Thomas Wishloff is currently an MA student at York University. He is new to the Toronto Film Scene, but has periodically written and podcasted for several now defunct ventures, and has probably commented on a forum with you at some point. The ex-Edmontonian has been known to enjoy a good board game, and claims to know the secret to the best popcorn in the world.
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