In an exclusive interview with uInterview at the South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, Northern Comfort director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson and actor Simon Manyonda had a philosophical discussion about what they hope the audience will take home from the movie.

Northern Comfort is a dark comedy about a diverse group of people in London who, sharing a chronic fear of flying, join a course in hopes of overcoming their fears. However, the movie takes a twist when the group goes on a mandatory trip to Iceland in order to complete their “fear of flying” course, which leaves them stranded in the cold Arctic to overcome their demons and find their way home.

The Icelandic director explained that the concept for the movie came from a family member who suffers from a fear of flying and took a similar course to overcome it. “I thought to myself, ‘yeah this is a quite good premise.’ It’s a really kind of intense situation that could be fun but also touching to expose these vulnerabilities of the characters and of the human being,” Sigurðsson said.

Describing the movie as an existential comedy, Sigurðsson admitted he himself is “constantly afraid of dying and this film is about that.” “I guess we’re all, at some point during our day, there some thoughts that are not wanted and keep upsetting us,” he added. “And [Northern Comfort] is about letting go of that.”

Manyonda, who plays Charles, an assistant instructor who ends up taking leadership after the accident, resonated with Sigurðsson. “Oh absolutely, I’m chronically anxious… There are a lot of things in life that could come and attack you at any moment in time,” he said.

The British actor went on to explain that one of the reasons why he enjoys acting and playing these characters that “have a beginning, middle, and an end” is that it helps him “control” his anxieties and live vicariously through them.

When asked about Northern Comfort’s message to its viewers, Sigurðsson hoped that they would leave knowing that “it’s okay to feel small and just let go.”

Manyonda agreed with the director, saying, “It’s okay to be afraid and fear is a process. You’ve gotta go all the way through it to come out to the other side.”

“And actually, admitting really is the first step,” he continued. “It’s not the last step, and that journey can be long and you might have to get on a plane and get stranded to achieve the rest of the steps but if you could admit to feeling small, to feeling scared, to feeling anxious, to feeling stressed, then someone might say ‘me too, I can help you.’”

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