Reykjavík International Film Festival

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Reykjavík International Film Festival
Location Reykjavík, Iceland
Language International

Reykjavík International Film Festival (RIFF; Icelandic: Alþjóðleg kvikmyndahátíð í Reykjavík) is an international film festival held annually in Reykjavík, Iceland. The festival lasts 11 days each year and emphasizes young talents. One way of doing so is having a competitive category (named New Visions) exclusively limited to a director's first or second feature-length film. At each festival, a number of awards are given out. The main award is the Discovery of the Year award, also called Golden Puffin, given by an international jury. The international federation of film critics FIPRESCI send a jury to RIFF from 2006. Also, the audience can vote for their favorite film from the whole programme. Lifetime achievement awards and creative excellency awards are given to well-known film directors who have achieved excellence in their work.


Reykjavík International Film Festival (RIFF) was founded in 2004 by a group of film enthusiasts and professionals with the goal of creating an annual international film festival in Reykjavík. The aim is to establish a major film event to enrich and enliven the local film culture, but moreover, to become an international attraction. We believe that by building up an innovative film festival in Reykjavík, our foreign guests will have a unique opportunity to participate in an exciting cultural event, as well as visiting a country renowned for its natural wonders and dynamic culture.[citation needed]

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Forman is given an award for his lifetime achievement by the president of Iceland in 2009

The festival organized its first event in Reykjavík in November 2004, initiating a discussion of the role and importance of film festivals in a local and international context. A festival program was organized in relation to the seminar, showing films by Icelandic film directors and professionals that work outside of Iceland.

The next RIFF was held from September 29 to October 9, 2005, and was a leap forward in size and scale compared to the year before. Programmer Dimitri Eipides was brought on board to supervise the film selection, and he has worked with us since. Eipides has gained experience as a programmer for the Toronto and Montreal Film Festivals as well as the Thessaloniki International Film Festival in Greece.

In 2005, the foundation for our programme for the future was laid and a number of our current categories surfaced for the first time. A lifetime achievement award was given to Abbas Kiarostami and a retrospective of his works was screened along with an exhibition of his photographs. Our ‘Discovery of the Year’ award was given out for the first time to Cristi Puiu, director of the film The Death of Mr. Lazarescu. Over 13,000 people came to see the festival’s seventy films.

In 2006, RIFF’s reputation had spread considerably and the number of international guests multiplied. Representatives from media such as Variety, The Guardian and IndieWIRE attended the festival and one journalist summed up his experience by calling RIFF “one of the best-kept secrets of the film festival circuit.”[attribution needed] The programme had also grown to incorporate over one hundred films, a number of master classes, symposiums and panel discussions – and we even managed to cram a few concerts in too.

Grbavica by Jasmila Žbanić was the ‘Discovery of the Year’ and RIFF’s first time FIPRESCI jury awarded Red Road by Andrea Arnold. Aleksandr Sokurov was given the lifetime achievement award and Atom Egoyan accepted recognition for his creative excellence. Attendance soared to over 15,000 and the festival was considered an enormous success, both locally and internationally.[citation needed]

In 2007, RIFF was held for the fourth time. Many filmmakers from all over the world visited Reykjavík for the festival. Among them was Aki Kaurismäki, who received the Reykjavík International Film Festival honorary awards, presented by the president of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. Hungarian film Iska’s Journey by director Csaba Bollók was named Discovery of the Year. Iska’s Journey received the Golden Puffin, awarded for the first time. Head of jury Hal Hartley gave out the award.

Peter Greenaway visited Reykjavík, held a lecture and was awarded for his life achievement as a filmmaker. An international federation of film critics, FIPRESCI, awarded Danish debut feature The Art of Crying by Peter Schønau Fog, which also received the Church of Iceland award, given out for the second time. “The film deals delicately with issues that often are kept quiet and presents them with respect, understanding and sympathy. The Art of Crying raises awareness of the fragility of life, moves the audience and calls for discussion and responses,” is stated in the jury’s motivation. The audience award went to Joy Division’s Ian Curtis biopic Control by Anton Corbijn and Amnesty International awarded El Ejido for The Law of Profit – a documentary on immigrants in South Spain.

RIFF 2007 drew over 20,000 people (approx. 7% of Iceland’s population) to the festival’s screenings, and filled 84% of available seats during the festival’s eleven days.

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Screening in a swimming pool in 2009

In 2008, RIFF was held for the fifth time. Over 300 foreign guests visited the festival and well over 20,000 people saw the films that RIFF had to offer. The movie Tulpan received the Golden Puffin, RIFF's main award, and was named Discovery of the Year. Home by Ursula Meier received the FIPRESCI award and Snijeg by Aida Begić from Bosnia-Herzegovenia received the Church of Iceland award. Venkovský ucitel by Bohdan Sláma from the Czech Republic received the Gay-friendly award given by Iceland's National Association of Gays and Lesbians. The Association also gave She's a Boy I Knew by Gwen Haworth from Canada a special recognition award. Electronica Reykjavík by Arnar Jónasson from Iceland was voted most popular by the attendees at RIFF.

The special events at RIFF were a success. 'Sound on Sight' was a project where people were able to focus on the special bond and connection between music and film. A project called 'Minus 25' was designed for people under the age of 25 and included many mini-projects, e.g. a competition where youngsters wrote music for the movie The Crowd, which was originally released in 1928. A short film competition for young students was held and even Iceland's kindergartens were able to participate in their own little project where children made short films from digital photographs. A talent campus was held where young people from Europe and America were invited to meet in Reykjavík and see what the film industry had to offer on the other side of the globe. This was only a fraction of the special events RIFF had to offer in 2008.

In 2009, RIFF was held for the sixth time. Raving reviews, ticket-sales, attendees from all over the world, long queues and sold-out passes made the festival of 2009 one of the most sought after events of the year.[citation needed] One of the biggest events at the festival and one of the festival's all-over highlight was the visit of 2009's honorary guest - Miloš Forman. Apart from Forman, many international guests came to Reykjavík for the 2009 edition: directors, press and other guests.

In 2010, RIFF was held for the seventh time on September 23rd - October 3rd. In a short time RIFF became quite well known among film enthusiasts and professionals. Gerald Peary from the Boston Phoenix called the festival "one of the best-programmed film festivals on earth, and with some of the most exciting guests." Todd Burns of Stylus Magazine concluded his article on the 2006 event with these words: “If it continues down this path, it won’t be one of the best-kept secrets of the film festival circuit for long” and Brian Brooks from IndieWIRE had this to say: “Quite simply, in my humble opinion as a minor vet on the festival circuit, this event has instantly become one of my favorites. Of course the lure of Iceland and its eccentric beauty helps, but Reykjavík’s residents seem to have embraced the event, filling many of the festival’s screenings.”

In 2011, the 8th festival took place from September 22 to October 2. In 2011, selection included films that have already had a lot of press, films that have done well at other festivals but were unlikely to get much attention beyond the festival circuit (Yorgos Lanthimos's Alps, Aleksander Sokurov's Golden Lion-winning Faust) and homegrown films. 'Discovery of the year: the golden puffin' was given to Angelina Nikonova for her 'Twilight Portrait'. FIPRESCI awarded 'Volcano' by Rúnar Rúnarsson, who also got 'The Church of Iceland award'. 'Environment award' winner was Risteard O'Domhnaill for his movie 'The Pipe'. Béla Tarr received a 'Lifetime Achievement Award' and Lone Scherfig got a 'Creative Excellency Award'. 'The Best Icelandic Short Award' was given to Börkur Sigþórsson for 'Skaði'. What is more, in 2011 festival focused on Romanian films, also had a special 'Arabian Spring' programme and Festival audience enjoyed special events like swim-in cinema, film concert, Bollywood beach party and the RIFF wonderland.

In 2012, it was held for the 9th time, from September 27 till October 7. Visitors to the festival were able to participate in various special events, like costume screening and party, kindergarten stop-motion screenings, a popular swim-in cinema which became a RIFF’s speciality, ‘When the Raven Flies’ (1984) screening at film director Hrafn Gunnlaugsson’s house, screenings of German movies and many other interesting activities. Benh Zeitlin and his film 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' was awarded with 'Golden Puffin Award'. Dario Argento got the 'Lifetime Achievement Award' and Susanne Bier won in the 'Creative Excellency' category. The most popular film in 2012 was 'Queen of Montreuil' by Sólveig Anspach. International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) awarded Sean Baker for her film 'Starlet' and the Church of Iceland gave its award for Meni Yaesh and his film 'God's Neighbours'.

In 2013, the festival celebrated its tenth anniversary. RIFF guests and visitors had the opportunity to participate in joke-cinema, midnight movie, cave-cinema, screenings in 'Borg' restaurant, various discussions with film creators, talent lab for youngsters and many other events. 'Golden Puffin' and 'FIPRESCI Award' in 2013 was given for Italian film director Uberto Pasolini and his work called 'Still Life'. 'Creative Excellency Award' was given to Laurent Cantet, James Gray and Lukas Moodysson, who also got 'Audience Award' for 'We Are the Best!'. Church of Iceland gave its award to Ritesh Batra for her movie called 'The Lunchbox'.

RIFF returned in 2014 with a larger festival than the previous year. In addition to regular cinema screenings the festival held a drive in cinema in neighbouring town Kópavogur and a hot tub cinema where audiences got the chance of chatting with short film directors after the screenings of their film. A special focus was on Italian film making this year. Smetto quando voglio by director Sidney Sibilia won the Golden Puffin and Bota by Iris Elezi and Thomas Logoreci won both the Audience- and FIBRESCI awards. Mike Leigh was given a Lifetime achievement award and his latest movie Mr. Turner was screened to a full audience. Ruben Östlund was honored as an emerging master and became somewhat of a sensation in the city during the festival.

A special panel program was dedicated to the theme of war and peace with topics ranging from the crisis in the Ukraine, screenings of Finnish war movies and a visit from reporter John Pilger. Another special part of the program was a focus on films from Greenland and the Faroese Islands. A part of the program was held in Kópavogur for the first time with one of the highlights being a film concert where metal band Sólstafir performed their musical score to the film Hrafninn flýgur by director Hrafn Gunnlaugsson.

Golden Puffin winners[edit]

Year Film Director Nationality
2005 The Death of Mr. Lazarescu Cristi Puiu  Romania
2006 Grbavica Jasmila Žbanić  Bosnia and Herzegovina
2007 Iska's Journey Csaba Bollók  Hungary
2008 Tulpan Sergey Dvortsevoy  Kazakhstan
2009 I killed my mother Xavier Dolan  Canada
2010 Le Quattro Volte Michelangelo Frammartino  Italy
2011 Twilight Portrait Angelina Nikonova  Russia
2012 Beasts of the Southern Wild Benh Zeitlin  United States
2013 Still Life Uberto Pasolini  Italy
2014 Smetto quando voglio Sydney Sibilia  Italy


Year Dates Discovery of the Year

(Golden Puffin)

Lifetime Achievement Creative Excellency Audience Award FIPRESCI Award Church of Iceland Award Emerging Master
2004 Nov 17 - Nov 25 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2005 Sept 29 - Oct 9 The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Cristi Puiu Abbas Kiarostami N/A Howl's Moving Castle

Hayao Miyazaki

2006 Sept 28 - Oct 8 Grbavica,

Jasmila Žbanić

Alexander Sokurov Atom Egoyan We Shall Overcome

Niels Arden Oplev

Red Road

Andrea Arnold

Four Minutes

Chris Kraus

2007 Sept 27 - Oct 7 Iska's Journey,

Csaba Bollók

Hanna Schygulla N/A Control

Anton Corbijn

The Art of Crying

Peter Schønau Fog

The Art of Crying

Peter Schønau Fog

2008 Sept 25 - Oct 5 Tulpan,

Sergey Dvortsevoy

Costa-Gavras Shirin Neshat Electronica Reykjavík

Arnar Jónasson


Ursula Meier


Aida Begic

2009 Sept 17 - Sept 27 I killed my mother

Xavier Dolan

Miloš Forman N/A The gentlemen

Janus Bragi Jakobsson

The girl

Fredrik Edfeldt


Matias Armand Jordal

2010 Sept 23 - Oct 3 Le quattro volte

Michelangelo Frammartino

Jim Jarmusch N/A Littlerock

Mike Ott

Le quattro volte

Michelangelo Frammartino


Marian Crisan

2011 Sept 22 - Oct 2 Twilight Portrait

Angelina Nikonova

Béla Tarr Lone Scherfig Le Havre

Aki Kaurismäki


Rúnar Rúnarsson


Rúnar Rúnarsson

2012 Sept 27 - Oct 7 Beasts of the Southern Wild

Benh Zeitlin

Dario Argento Susanne Bier Queen of Montreuil

Sólveig Anspach


Sean Baker

God's Neighbours

Meni Yaesh

Marjane Satrapi
2013 Sept 26 – Oct 6 Still Life

Umberto Pasolini

N/A Lukas Moodysson

Laurent Cantet James Gray

We are the Best

Lukas Moodysson

Still Life

Umberto Pasolini


Ritesh Batra

2014 Sept 25 – Oct 5 Smetto quando voglio

Sydney Sibilia

Mike Leigh N/A Bota

Iris Elezi Thomas Logoreci


Iris Elezi Thomas Logoreci

Villa Touma

Suha Arraf

Ruben Östlund


External links[edit]