Guests at the Icelandic event included Susanne Bier, Marjane Satrapi and Dario Argento.

Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts Of The Southern Wild has won the Golden Puffin at the Reykjavik International Film Festival (Sept 27-Oct 7).

The film screened in the festival’s competitive New Visions section. Other winners at the award ceremony, which took place at the Icelandic capital’s Harpa Music Hall on Saturday night (Oct 6), included Sean Baker’s Starlet which won the FIPRESCI Prize.

The Church of Iceland Award was given to Meni Yaesh’s God’s Neighbours. A special mention was given to Moon Man, directed by Stephan Schesch.

The Audience Award went to Solveig Anspach’s festival opening film Queen Of Montreuil, while the Environment Award for a film in the section A Different Tomorrow was given to Viktor Kossakovsky for ¡Vivan las Antipodas!.

Elfar Aðalsteins won Best Icelandic Short for Sailcloth. Special mentions went to A Day Or Two (Einn dag eða tvo) by Hlynur Pálmason, Love Story (Ástarsaga) by Ása Hjörleifsdóttir, Memory Lane (Yfir horfinn veg) by Andri Freyr Ríkarðsson and Child Eater (Barnahákur).

The Golden Egg, awarded to a participant in RIFF’s Talent Lab, went to On This Island by Matthew Hammett Knott.

RIFF sold around 30,000 tickets in 2012. Guests at the festival – now in its ninth year – included Susanne Bier, Dario Argento, Marjane Satrapi, Solveig Anspach, Carol Morley and Cairo Cannon, Olaf Grunert and Baltasar Kormakur. The main jury consisted of Geoffrey Gilmore, Cedomir Kolar and Erna Kettler.

“The festival has a lot of opportunities for the film industry,” festival director Hrönn Marinósdóttir told Screen. “Iceland is situated between Europe and America so it’s a good place to meet, and Reykjavik the city is very small so it’s a good place to network and meet people because everything is within ten minutes walk.”

RIFF plays a key role in linking the Icelandic film industry – and Iceland as a place to shoot – with foreign visitors. “We have been lucky enough to have several filmmakers that have come back to Iceland after the festival to work here and we have Icelandic filmmakers who have got to know foreign filmmakers and have worked with them on co-productions,” said Marinósdóttir.

She pointed to Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov, who attended at the festival in 2006. During his visit he went location scouting and came back a few months later to shoot Faust.

RIFF’s Industry Days event aims to give the international visitors a chance to see the best in Icelandic film, learn about co-production opportunities and take place in discussions. Attendees this year included Memento Films’ director Emilie Georges, Gabor Greiner from Films Boutique and Either Way director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson.

RIFF also holds a Talent Lab, which saw around 60 emerging filmmakers in attendance. Matthew Mishory, whose Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait Of James Dean screened at RIFF this year, is a Talent Lab alumni and the project was originally developed at the lab in 2009.

Aiming to show progressive, adventurous and challenging cinema, RIFF’s main programmers are Giorgio Gosetti from Venice Days with Peter Wintonick programming documentaries.

The festival is known for its special events such as screenings in caves, and this year a swim-in cinema. RIFF also screens films around Iceland during the festival, and also in two Icelandic prisons. “We believe films can change people’s lives so we bring films to people who cannot attend the festival,” said Marinósdóttir.

The festival operates on a budget of roughly $450,000–$490,000. After the Icelandic financial crisis of 2008, RIFF lost sponsors it had been working with since the start and Marinósdóttir says financing remains difficult. “We have to find ways to keep on going, and what makes a difference is that we have so many motivated people and more than 100 volunteers.”

Current backers include the MEDIA fund, the city of Reykjavik and the Ministry of Culture.

Iceland’s film industry is still feeling the effects of the crash. However, the industry has been boosted in 2012 by such international shoots using Iceland as Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, Darren Aronofsky’s Noah and Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty.