In Mainline's newest and 12th instalment of their TRIBUTE series, Chantal Anderson follows an Icelandic teen, Úa and her wanderlust. The 14-year-old artist who's name represents the sound of a specific noise a bird makes when it has found love, speaks freely and honestly about growing up in her hometown, and how her choice of wanting to move away filters down to her creativity often being stumped by her surroundings. The familiar restraint, which impedes on a teenagers continuing quest for freedom, is illustrated through Úa’s experiences in the film. We speak to Chantal Anderson about her four-minute motion picture.
Where did you meet Úa?
Chantal Anderson: I first met Úa while I was doing an artist residency in the East Fjords of Iceland. I was living in a small town of five hundred people and she walked past my window with a couple of other teenagers. Her blonde hair was lit up by some intermittent sunlight and caught my eye against her black denim jacket. She stood out from her friends and had this effortless cool and confidence that made me want to photograph her. A few days later I said hi when I saw her with some mutual friends and started talking to her about her life, and asked if I could interview her about living in East Iceland. She obliged and after an hour I knew that I needed to make a film about her.
What do the teenagers of that town usually do? Did the film take place during what could be considered a typical day for Úa?
Chantal Anderson: Life is very slow for teenagers in this town. The town sits between two mountains where the sea meets the land, and is made up of 19th-century timber buildings and surrounded by hundreds of waterfalls and more sheep than people. I spent a lot of time interviewing teenagers about what they did for fun and most of them do the usual stuff – video games, soccer, making music, watching youtube and so on. But it’s also common to hike to your favourite waterfall, drive around town with your only friend with a license listening to music and build a bonfire, or ride your bike as far out of town as you can pedal. Úa is unique for her age, in that she’s very comfortable doing her own thing, and her favourite thing to do is listen to music through headphones and walk as far as she can go.
I think one of the interesting aspects of the film is the fact that she feels trapped even though she’s in such a vast, awesome environment. Do teenagers in the town have a certain amount of ambition? Is that encouraged?
Chantal Anderson: The closest high school is 30 minutes away in a town on the other side of the mountain, so most of the kids leave for school and then eventually go on to university in Reykjavik or elsewhere. Some return to the town and start families. There’s a lot of artists living there from Europe and the States, so teens grow up exposed to a lot of possibilities considering just how small the town is. I think most kids are encouraged to go out into the world and (hopefully) return home someday.
Did the places she take you hold a particular significance to her?
Chantal Anderson: Definitely, the mural on the crumbling building a mile and a half out of town is her favourite place, and the waterfall we visited is basically across the street from her house, and where she spent summers as a child wearing in the path to the top with her little brother.
Was she at all surprised that you showed interest in her life? I find sometimes people wonder "why me," but mostly out of curiosity, not embarrassment or anything.
Chantal Anderson: Yes! She asked me multiple times why I was interested in her and I just kept explaining that I thought she was such a perfect person to follow for this project because of her take on life and the place she lives in. I feel so lucky to have met her and documented her… she’s a tremendously positive character.