Eurovision is practically everywhere these days. For those of us who come from Europe, this is not surprising at all. Since we were kids, this show has been part of our lives every single year. Now, thanks to Netflix, Iceland Fire Saga and The Eurovision Song Contest seem to have taken over the world by surprise. Did you watch Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga? If you have, we will help you understand all about it!
Warning: this article contains many spoilers if you have not seen the movie yet, close this tab immediately!
For many, this movie will be just a fictional script to entertain us for a couple of hours. But things are more complicated than they seem. When I saw the movie, I took everything a little for granted; I recognized the faces, I knew the locations, I knew the artists, the songs, etc. but then I thought that most of my dear readers are from across the pond. The funny thing is that it is an American production, with American actors: Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams. This duo is known as Fire Saga.
All this led me to wonder, do people really understand what is behind the film?
What is Eurovision Song Contest?
Well, as its name implies, the Eurovision song contest is a festival that revolves around music, but on a large scale. A continental one to be precise. It was created in 1951, and at the beginning, it was limited only to European countries that presented their candidacy (singer and song). Then, the public, along with a professional jury, rate them. The winning country should be the one to host the Festival the following year.
All singers must present a unique, original song that does not include lyrics that could cause political tensions between countries. As the Festival gained fame outside the European borders, other countries wanted to join the Festival, as is the case of Israel or Turkey.
Today, the Eurovision Song Contest is more than a singing contest. It is a European cultural phenomenon that generates millions of views every year. Many of the artists who have passed through the Festival enjoy the admiration and respect of millions of Europeans. Among them ABBA, Celine Dión (who represented Switzerland), or Bonnie Tyler.
How does the Festival work?
The Eurovision Song Contest has a straightforward format, although in recent years it has undergone some changes. There are two rounds: a semifinal and a final. From the semifinals, approximately 20 finalists will emerge. In these semifinals, the countries participating in the gala will vote, plus the Big Five countries. The members of the Big Five are Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France, in addition to the host country.
The vote of the public, who vote directly from home (50%) and the professional juries (50%), determine who are the candidates chosen to make it through the final. In this way, each voting country awards points that go from 1 to 12. The public from all over Europe can vote through the official application of the Eurovision Song Contest, by phone or by SMS.
Why do the big five automatically qualify for Eurovision?
The so-called “Big five” is made up of the five countries that give the highest economic remuneration to the “EBU European Broadcasting Union,” the entity that produces the Eurovision Song Contest. Therefore, these countries have direct access to the final, without going through the previous semifinals.
Accuracy of Eurovision song contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Roughly speaking, the film is entirely acceptable, but it is not a Eurovision documentary. We must not lose sight of the fact that it is a film with an artistic license to be able to tell a story while entertaining the viewer. Even so, let’s break down what is real and what is not about the film.
Iceland Fire Saga: The beginning
The film begins with a family reunion watching Eurovision and Lars, the protagonist, dancing to ABBA’s Waterloo. This is true, Abba appeared at Eurovision with this song in 1974, but in Iceland, the Festival was not broadcasted until 1983. So well, a bit of time travel here, but that’s fine, we can forgive the scriptwriter.
What I do not forgive is that the Iceland Fire Saga duo are called Lars and Sigrit. They are not Icelandic names! I’m surprised that something so simple has been overlooked. Sigríður, Guðrún, Kristín, Sigrún for girls, Gunnar, Ólafur, Einar, Magnús, etc for boys. There are plenty of Icelandic names to spare!
Does Husavik exist?
The film begins in Húsavík, which does exist. There are a few blog posts on what to do and see in Húsavík, a beautiful fishing village in northern Iceland.
Sigrit composes a song in honor of her hometown in which she mentions, “Where the whales can live ’cause they’re gentle people”; This line originates from the fact that Husavik is considered The whale watching capital of Iceland. The number of these mammals that visit its coasts is impressive, so you have many tours to see them swim freely in the North Atlantic ocean’s waters.
Is Songvakeppnin real?
As real as life itself! Söngvakeppnin means “television song contest” and is the Icelandic national program to find the candidate of Iceland in Eurovision. Now, in the film, the building shown is not the RÚV headquarters, The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, but the University of Iceland.
Is Eurovision as crazy as it seems?
Well, yes and no. The Festival started quite seriously. In recent years, some performances have become more extravagant and even ridiculous, something that is continuously reflected in the film. Regardless of how ludicrous the performance might be, the vocal quality of singers is always high.
The reason why these performances are more common nowadays is due to discrepancies between countries. Votes between neighboring countries are constant lately. Some nations believe they will never win Eurovision because of this practice. So, some states decided to take the contest less seriously. Some of these performances have gone down in history, and any European can easily remember them.
Edinburgh hosting the Festival
Okay, the irony of this is incredible. For many, it may have passed unnoticed, but in Europe, this has caused more than just a laugh. Why? Well, it is well known that the United Kingdom is one of the countries that tend to receive fewer points. and to host the festival, you must have won last year’s edition. Besides, there is also another error. The UK is part of the Big five countries, which, as we mentioned before, go directly to the final, so it makes no sense to see it competing together with Iceland in the semifinals.
Do they sing in playback in Eurovision?
No, they don’t. Vocals are always live; however, the instrumental is not. No time for soundcheck, they say!
If you remember, Iceland’s fire saga main song is not played in the finals. Lars makes Sigrit change their song to Husavik in the very last minute. We see him playing the keyboard and improvising. That would not be possible as, in real life, the instruments are not connected, and there is no live music, just live vocals.
What else Eurovision move gets wrong?
Well, starting from the way the votes are given to how the performances are narrated. The presenters never comment on the song or the artist while they are singing. It is not a soccer game or the Superbowl.
The songs cannot be longer than three minutes, so Lars and Sigrit are lucky to be able to take over the stage for so long.
Eurovision song contest 2020: Iceland Fire Saga
As I mentioned before, we must take into account that it is merely a film and it does not intend to be a real and historical documentary about the Festival. We highlight these errors only so that our readers in other countries outside Europe understand how it works and to avoid them from having a distorted image of what the Festival is.
I also invite you to check the candidates representing Iceland from past years like Harati, who caused quite a sensation. Unfortunately, Eurovision 2020 had to be canceled due to the current situation with the Covid19. Still, our representative, Daði freyr, with his song “Think about Things” was among the favorites of this year’s Festival.
In the film, there were also several cameos of famous representatives from other years such as Alexander Rybak (Eurovision 2009), Loreen (Eurovision 2012), Conchita Wurst (Eurovision 2014), Jamala (Eurovision 2016), Salvador Sobral (Eurovision 2017) and Netta (Eurovision 2018). Check them out on Youtube! You might love them. And nope, Ja Ja ding dong is not a traditional Icelandic song, but it’s never too late to make it a national anthem, isn’t it?
Which song is your favorite? I’ll stick to Iceland Fire Saga and their hit Volcano Man 😛