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RIFF Review: A Cinematic and Culinary Experience

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RIFF Review: A Cinematic and Culinary Experience

For the first time in the ten year history of RIFF the festival collaborated with the chefs of Borg Restaurant. Five short films from the Icelandic short film category were to be screened at Hotel Borg’s Golden Ball Room while a different dish was served with each film. Watching and dining at its best.

riff_2013_cine_dinnerPhotos courtesy of RIFF.

After each screening, the two chefs of Borg Restaurant explained to the audience why they had chosen each specific dish and why they thought their food fit to the respective films.

The event started with the short film Sailcloth (Segldúkur) by Elfar Aðalsteinsson which was shown at last year’s festival. An elderly widower, played by the fabulous John Hurt, runs away from a nursing home. He makes his way to the local pier, goes on board of a small sailing boat and rows onto the sea. All by himself on the ocean he makes a big decision. This touching and beautifully staged short film was accompanied by a cold seafood soup served on a bed of steaming dry ice. Seafood was the obvious choice as a reference to the cold ocean in the film, as the chefs explained.

The second picture was Vikings (Víkingar) by Magali Magistry. Seventeen minutes long we follow the Viking Magnús (Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson) and witness his struggle against his opponent Bjarni (Damon Younger) who took away Magnús’ wife and child. This wonderful tale is a great depiction of the modern Icelander. The dish served with Vikings consisted of lightly salted cod, beer jelly and crumbles of Icelandic rye bread, combining traditional food with modern cooking styles.

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This was followed by Boy, the Prague Film School graduation project of Eilífur Örn Þrastarson, showing a young man working for an elderly, wealthy man in a villa on the countryside who suffers the teasing of his employer. The chefs decided to serve different root vegetables along with olives and súrmjólk (Sour milk, an Icelandic dairy product) symbolizing the bitter and sour life the boy endures.

Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson’s cinematic work Whale Valley (Hvalfjörður) was next on the schedule. The story of two boys who are living on a remote farm on the Icelandic countryside is quite captivating. The younger of the two boys walks in on his older brother’s suicide attempt and we accompany the brothers throughout their struggle to deal with their isolation, both being isolated in the fjord and with their emotional situation. This stirring and soulful film-let is a skillfully crafted portrait of two brothers and just won Best Icelandic Short Film at RIFF: “An extremely strong piece of work which speaks to the human in all of us,” according to the jury.

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The idea for the accompanying dish, smoked lamb with deep fried blood pudding, derives from the Icelandic word for the smoked lamb hangikjöt, literally ‘hung meat,’ is traditionally made hanging up meat to smoke. The fact that the older brother in the film tried to hang himself inspired the chefs into making this dish.

The closing short movie was Numbers & Friends (Tölur & Vinir) by Alexander Carson. In this Icelandic-Canadian co-production we see Atli, an Icelander, searching for his happiness in Canada by immersing himself into a Fantasy Baseball League. What sounds like a good idea, leaves a lot to be desired as it turns out to be rather pointless and pretentious. Luckily the dessert, beer sorbet with raspberries, was better.

This special event truly was a delightful feast for eyes and taste-buds! Read more of our coverage of RIFF 2013 here.

Katharina Hauptmann/Iceland Review [email protected]

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