Ash (Aska): Film Review

Straightforward account of life after global news teams lost interest

Herbert Sveinbjornsson observes the aftermath of 2010's Eyjafjallajökull eruption on Icelandic farmers.

REYKJAVIK — Following three agricultural families through the aftermath of 2010's devastating volcanic eruptions in Iceland, Herbert Sveinbjornsson's Ash offers long-term coverage of what for Americans was a news-cycle blip most significant for its effect on global air traffic. The in-depth doc lacks a broad appeal that could justify Stateside theatrical bookings, but festivals, particularly those with an environmental slant, should take notice.

After a vivid account of what it's like to live near a volcano as it erupts, the film moves on to cleanup. We get to know three farming families whose situations are quite different: One who has worked their land for generations, one for whom farming is a new calling, and one working unrelated jobs in the city as they try to get a sheep-raising enterprise on its feet.

All have staggering clean-up jobs on their hands. One counts up 400 tons of ash they've trucked off just from around their property's houses, before moving on to the fields. More devastating is mud, which can destroy the soil beneath it. Then there's the "tourist eruption": the cigarettes and beer cans left by around 25,000 city folk and journalists who come out to watch the show.

The families cope with these and other difficulties (like a foreign-currency farm loan that turned onerous after the economic crisis) in different ways. One makes lemonade from lemons, capitalizing on tourists' curiosity by building a volcano study center that happens to be a marketing boon for local produce. When 2011 offers yet another eruption, one must marvel at anyone willing to keep living off such volatile land.

Director-Editor: Herbert Sveinbjornsson

Screenwriters: Hildur Margretadottir, Herbert Sveinbjornsson

Producers: Heather Millard, Herbert Sveinbjornsson

Directors of photography: Hildur Margretadottir, Herbert Sveinbjornsson

Music: Ulfur Eldjarn

No rating, 111 minutes