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Reykjavik rocks for opening weekend

Sigur Ros film opens RIFF, and the Romanians get the party started at new local hotspot KEX.

Money’s not everything – that’s one lesson that can be taken away from the eighth edition of the Reykjavik International Film Festival. The Icelandic economy may have crashed but the festival shows no signs of waning ambitions (it has a huge programme despite limited resources) or warm local hospitality.

Festival founder Hronn Marinosdottir opened the festival on Thursday night by noting that in the eight years since the festival started, it has grown from about 16 films (in 2004) to about ten times that amount this year.

Film is strong in Iceland — as remarked on opening night, the Icelandic film industry boasts more films made per capita than any other country (Iceland has only about 300,000 residents).

Jon Gnarr, comedian-actor-turned-mayor of Reykjavik, said: “RIFF brings our city a colourful selection of films coming from all around the world. (Gnarr himself is also the subject of an excellent feature documentary playing at RIFF, directed by Gaukur Ulfarsson.)

Jon Gnarr at RIFF opening

Jon Gnarr at RIFF opening

He noted that international films shooting material in Iceland recently include Prometheus by Ridley Scott and Aleksander Sokurov’s Venice-winning Faust. “Besides bringing money into the country, each of these films adds to the strength of the Icelandic film industry,” Gnarr added.

The opening film, Vincent Morisset’s Inni, had a strong local connection — it is a concert film featuring local heroes Sigur Ros. This wasn’t a straightforward concert film, it was extremely stylised, at times abstract black-and-white images reminiscent of Anton Corbijn. The screening felt more like a rock show, in local club NASA instead of a cinema – which meant the sound was incredible.

Inni

Inni

Friday night events brought visitors filmmaker Hrafn Gunnlaugsson’s home for beer and schnapps — it proved to be a famously eccentric and jaw-droppingly amazing self-designed house (see photo below). Some of us lucky guests left with DVDs of his 1984 Oscar submission, the famed Viking tale When The Raven Flies.

The Raven house

The Raven house

On Saturday night, the Romanian contingent threw a lively party at Kex, a hot new local hostel and restaurant/bar (housed in a former biscuit factory). The Romanian Cultural Institute In London partnered on the festival’s Focus on Romania — showing films including Outbound, Loverboy, Crulic - The Path To Beyond, The Shukar Collective Project, The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu and Tuesday, After Christmas; as well as a special programme of films by Adrian Sitaru.

DJ Nico De Transvilvania was flown over to play some electro Balkan beats that got the crowd moving (the palinka brandy didn’t hurt either). Nico continued the Romanian vibe after Kex closed by spinning at the town’s famed Kafibarrinn (which used to be part-owned by Baltasar Kormakur, also out in support of RIFF, as were other directors including Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, Valdis Oskarsdottir, Dagur Kari and Ragnar Bragason.)

On Sunday, Danish director Lone Scherfig (see story here) was honoured at a reception hosted by mayor Gnarr.

Lone Scherfig receives her Honorary Award for Creative Excellence from Vigdis Finnbogadottir, former President of Iceland, at Reykjavik City Hall.

Lone Scherfig receives her Honorary Award for Creative Excellence from Vigdis Finnbogadottir, former President of Iceland, at Reykjavik City Hall.

Reykjavik offers other surprising screening locations, such as the popular swim-in cinema screening of The Neverending Story at a public pool in town, and a secret screening at a cave outside of the city. Plus, there will be more screenings later this week at local notables’ houses.

RIFF continues with another week of fun — guests due in town later this week include James Marsh and Bela Tarr.

 

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