Library to feature Icelandic documentary

Published on Wed, Nov 10, 2010 by Rob Olason

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The Blaine Icelandic Heritage Society is screening a new Icelandic documentary at the Blaine Public Library on Wednesday, November 17 at 4:30 p.m. The film, "From Turf Cottage to the Cover of TIME," documents the life of an Icelandic immigrant who rose from poverty to lead a large governmental agency during the Franklin Roosevelt administration. The film appeals to Icelandic descendants, art historians, genealogists and anyone interested in exploring their ethnic roots.
 
"Holger Cahill" is the name Icelander Sveinn Kristján Bjarnarson chose to reinvent himself as he sought a future in the United States. With his new identity, he became a journalist, expert on North American folk art, art museum director and the first director of the Federal Art Project in the Roosevelt administration. In this last position, Cahill developed a unique approach to keeping artists working during the depression years giving the U.S. many art objects that adorn public buildings from that era. This program also kept the careers of thousands of artists alive and was instrumental in shifting the center of the Art World from Europe to North America after World War II.
 
"From Turf Cottage to the Cover of TIME," is the first film in the "Donald K. Johnson Icelandic Film Series," organized by the Icelandic National League of North America. Johnson was made Officer of the Order of Canada this September 3, for his many philanthropic activities, especially his efforts to transform how financial gifts to charitable organizations are taxed. This change has greatly expanded charitable giving and had a major impact on the work of charities.  He is offering his financial support to bring films that show the Icelandic experience to communities across North America.
 
In "From Turf Cottage to the Cover of TIME," Icelandic Filmmaker Hans Kristján Árnason engages in a masterful telling of Holger Cahill's life journey. The film uncovers Cahill's beginnings as a near destitute emigrant from Iceland, through his struggles as a young boy and his eventual success as a novelist, expert on folk art and champion of North American artists.
 
Through interviews with Cahill's family, associates, his own writings and rare audio recordings, Árnason weaves a portrait of a man who wholeheartedly embraced his new homeland. In doing so, he also cut off his connection to his birth land and family. Many who knew Cahill were surprised to learn of his Icelandic roots. While going through a difficult time in his later years, Cahill/Bjarnarson finally re-connected with his long forgotten family and past. This new chapter in his life also opened up new connections for his descendants, who learned for the first time of their connection to Iceland.
 
The "Donald K Johnson Icelandic Film Series" will show two films this season. The second film in the series will be the Icelandic comedy, "The Seagull's Laughter." Set in post-war Iceland, Freya, returns to her remote fishing village from America after the death of her husband, a U.S. officer. Her exotic "American" ways sparks the quiet community to new life.
 
The club will also have a limited number of 2011 Icelandic recipe calendars available for purchase at the showing.