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An old gentleman who deserves to be remembered

‘The idea came from a stroll by the docks. Ásbjörn was steaming in and although I had seen it many times before, in port, or either leaving or on the way in, this time I went on board and chatted to the crew. I had been on Bergvík, a trawler from Keflavík, in the past, which was similar to Ásbjörn, but shorter. It was as if time had stood still and I was 17 or 18 years old again. That’s when the idea came to me of a documentary about this remarkable ship,’ said filmmaker Björgvin Helgi Möller Pálsson. Over the past year he has been making a film about fresher trawler Ásbjörn, which is about to be taken out of operation with HB Grandi.

The film will be premiered in the Harpa concert and conference hall over the Seamen’s Day weekend and is a part of the official listing of events for Reykjavík’s festival of the Sea. The film will be screened in Harpa’s Kaldalón at 14:00, 15:00 and 16:00 on Saturday and there will be four screenings on Sunday at 12:00, 13:00, 14:00 and 15:00. Admittance is free.

According to Björgvin Helgi, he has always had a keen interest in anything to do with fishing, and not least in old fishing vessels and with a particular fondness for the trawlers built for Icelandic companies at Flekkefjord in Norway, which includes Ásbjörn.

‘I imagine this interest goes back to when I was a boy. My father managed the Co-op in Thingeyri and he travelled to Norway to handle the purchase of the trawler Framnes. I remember that when it arrived, Framnes was the most magnificent ship that had ever come to Thingeyri. Framnes was one of the first of the Norwegian-built trawlers that came here. Bergvík, which had previously been Júlíus Geirmundsson, was the first. To my mind, Ásbjörn has always been the tough guy in the Reykjavík gang. Ásbjörn has fished as much or more than many of the larger trawlers, and part of the reason is the crew is an outstanding group who works extremely well together.’

Good co-operation with HB Grandi

Björgvin Helgi said that skipper Leifur and the crew welcomed him on board and were happy to talk.

‘I mentioned the idea of a documentary to begin with and they liked the idea. The next step was to discuss it with CEO Vilhjálmur Vilhjálmsson and his PA Kristín Helga, and they were positive about the idea. Everyone at HB Grandi has been very welcoming and have opened every door to make this project a reality.’

In September Björgvin Helgi spent a trip at sea on Ásbjörn and filmed everything possible.

‘We had everything from perfect weather up to a raging storm, just as the autumn storms were starting to show up. Later on I did interviews with the skipper and his crew and I spent last winter editing the footage and finishing off the film,’ he said.

Fishing and filming

While Björgvin Helgi didn’t choose fishing as a career, he has spent plenty of time at sea, first as a deckhand and later as ship’s cook. He started on Bergvík, with skipper Kristinn Gestsson, who today skippers HB Grandi’s Therney.

‘Then I was on stern trawler Aðalvík,it’s fresh in my memory the time we were steaming home with a record trip behind us and were told that the ship had been sold as it stood to ÚA in Akureyri where it became Sólbakur. After that I sailed with Kristinn Gestsson again on Snorri Sturluson,’ he said.

‘I’ve always been fascinated by cinema and am fortunate to have been able to concentrate on film making for the last four years. I’ve made quite a few films about Icelandic fisheries as well as teaching materials. I was also the cameraman on a film called Impact (Höggið), which was about the loss of the merchant ship Suðurland that sank on Christmas 1986. In addition, I have made two documentaries, The People in the Valley about the Secret Solstice festival that’s held every year in Laugardalur in Reykjavík, and a second film about last summer’s festival which will be screened in June,’ Björgvin Helgi Möller Pálsson said.