As days grow shorter and the wind reverts to its familiar freezing self in Reykjavík, the city will receive its annual antidote as the Reykjavík International Film Festival (RIFF) kicks off on Thursday. The immensely popular event enters its 12th edition this year and offers up 11 packed days of cinema and special events between September 24 and October 4.
The festival, renowned for its emphasis on promoting up-and-coming filmmakers, will showcase close to 100 full feature films and a whole host of short films from over 40 different countries. Both the festival director and main programmer of this year’s edition of RIFF have also announced their pride at the healthy ratio of female to male directors on display and believe that “women shine” in the upcoming program.
This year, as always, there is plenty to choose from for even the pickiest of viewers. Whether your cinematic tastes lean toward more serious issues such as man’s connection with nature and the future of the planet, as examined in Guy Reid’s excellent documentary Planetary, or the more wild and colorful stylings of Sean Baker’s Tangerine in which transsexual prostitute Sin-Dee Rella romps through L.A. exacting revenge for her boyfriend’s infidelity, there is something to be found for every observer.
There is a strong selection of Icelandic film on display in this year’s edition of RIFF. Among the 12 films competing for the festival’s main prize, The Golden Puffin, is Icelandic director Rúnar Rúnarsson’s Sparrows, a poetic drama where viewers are invited to follow 16-year-old Ari, who, as his mother departs for Angola with her new husband, attempts to reconnect with his estranged father in an immoral and sparsely-populated fishing village he now has to call home. Sparrows, Rúnarsson’s follow-up to the award-winning Volcano, will face competition from 11 fellow directors all of which will be screening their first or second feature-length film. Amongst those in the running are; Iranian director Vahid Jalilvand’s debut film Wednesday, May 9; John Maclean’s Michael Fassbender-starring western Slow West; and Kosovo’s Oscar submission Babai directed by Visar Morina.
Directors David Cronenberg and Margarethe von Trotta have been announced as the honorary guests at this year’s selection and both will take part in respective Master Classes where their work and careers will be discussed. Over the course of the festival RIFF will continue to stage a number of director Q&As, workshop and discussion sessions open to the general public.
A highlight of the festival continues to be the Swim-In Cinema, this year’s program gives attendees the choice between an evening screening of Dario Argento’s horror film Suspiria where the film’s eerie atmosphere will be brought to life on the walls and in the water of Sundhöllin, Reykjavík’s original swimming pool. Alternatively for the less adventurous viewer, Kópavogur swimming pool offers a more soothing afternoon showing of the family-friendly Moomins and the Comet Chase.
For more information on this year’s program visit RIFF’s website.
Aron Már Ingham Grímsson – amg25(at)hi.is
Born in Iceland and partially raised in England, Aron has spent his life divided between the two countries and cultures, combining the best of both. Currently he’s completing his BA thesis at the University of Iceland in English literature.