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Yes. I Met Bjork. No, I Didn’t Try the Shark. :: Movies :: Features :: RIFF :: Paste

Located within the North Atlantic, due east of Greenland, Iceland is a country atop many a pass backward and forward bum’s need document. Just the mere indicate of the word brings a twinkle to the attention and a wistful look to the visage. It’s no doubt some of the most visited global places, in keeping with capita, within the global, with merely over three visitors in keeping with resident every 12 months. Mention Iceland to as regards to any individual who hasn’t been there and likewise you’re much more likely to get a fevered flow into of the reason why they need to cross. How this kind of tiny country (Iceland boasts a whopping 330,000 citizens) inspired such pastime is in point of fact best glaring should you’ve been there, alternatively briefly: Volcanoes and glaciers, other-worldly landscapes, delightful other people, as regards to no violent crime (there are best about 200 other people in prison in Iceland), exceptional foods, a vibrant and emerging recreational industry, perhaps the driest sense of humor there’s, the nearest this planet has to gender equality … and, for many who’re me, you’re super much more likely to run into Bjork.

The Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF) is a rarity among events of its sort. There are over 1000 film festivals around the global. Big ones, little ones, town ones, rural ones, implausible ones and unbelievably crummy and shady ones. Some are principally for the film industry and a couple of are attended thru 1000’s of the typical public. They are in massive cities and small towns in just about every country on Earth, alternatively relatively few have the combination of top of the range films and an strange setting that makes attending them worthy of a go back and forth all by itself. I’ve been to as regards to 175 editions of 40 different festivals in 12 global places, and I will in all probability rely at the arms of one hand the festivals which can be appropriate that description. Thanks to an invitation to serve at the jury for their primary festival, The Golden Puffin, I got a refresher in why Iceland is one of those.

RIFF is creatively and expertly programmed thru a multinational body of workers this is composed of festival founder and director Hrönn Marinósdóttir (Iceland), primary programmer Giorgio Gosetti (Italy), documentary programmer Gabor Pertic (Canada) and shorts programmer Ana Catalá (Spain). It’s moreover no doubt some of the smoothest run festivals I’ve ever attended, and besides Gosetti and Pertic, is simply run thru ladies. Furthermore, six of the nine films that gained awards or honorable mentions where directed or co-directed thru ladies. (Perhaps the tide is turning. Given the ideas of the last few weeks, one can best hope.)

The New Visions program, for which the Golden Puffin is awarded, is a perilous proposition. Rarely is a contest’s primary festival restricted to first- or second-time filmmakers, and the risk of slogging despite the fact that a raft of amateurish films is key. The final analysis is, for every Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, 1989), David Gordon Green (George Washington, 2000) or Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy, 2008) there are dozens of various filmmakers whose early artwork is … lower than stellar. This 12 months’s crop at RIFF used to be as soon as upper than most, and at the entire, I used to be as soon as impressed. (As an aside, apart from explicitly stated, all evaluations herein are mine and now not necessarily those of my fellow jurors.)


Chloé Zhao’s The Rider is an strange piece of work and used to be as soon as our variety for the Golden Puffin. It is a deeply moving and incisive check out American masculinity from a viewpoint rarely noticed, that of a non-American born girl. Zhao, in best her second function day commute, has crafted a steady and elegiac story of a rodeo rider coming to grips in conjunction with his scenario after an coincidence strips him of his ability to do the very problems that defined him as a person and as an individual. To make this artwork a lot more astonishing, it used to be as soon as shot with a largely non-professional body of workers of actors, every playing some style of themselves. Lead Brady Jandreau supplies no doubt some of the most truthful and affecting performances you’re much more likely to peer in a film this 12 months. The film will also be introduced briefly within the United States thru Sony Pictures Classics, so do yourself a need and keep a be careful.


God’s Own Country, set for U.S. liberate in overdue October, is no doubt some of the most lauded films at the festival circuit this 12 months, having gained awards at a variety of primary festivals, in conjunction with Berlin, Edinburgh and Sundance. The story of a young gay man working on a family farm in Yorkshire, England, is touching, exceedingly neatly acted and takes place in a setting the likes of which used to be as soon as, until relatively in recent times, now not ceaselessly noticed in queer cinema. Lee gets some exceptional performances from Josh O’Connor, Alec Secareanu, Ian Hart and specifically Gemma Jones, and it used to be as soon as merely my second favorite film of the week. It gets a U.S. liberate later this month.

(It is also worth noting that the director of images on every The Rider and Francis Lee’s RIFF get right of entry to God’s Own Country used to be as soon as Joshua James Richards. Now I’ve a particularly proficient DP to watch out for.)


Thirty-one-year-old Faroese filmmaker Sakaris Stora made his feature-length debut with Dreams in the course of the Sea, an enchanting coming-of-age drama written thru Marjun Syderbø Kjelnæs about two teenaged girls discovering friendship among long summer season nights on an isolated island within the North Atlantic. On the ground, Ester (Juliett Nattestad) and Ragna (Helena Heðinsdóttir) couldn’t be a lot much less alike, alternatively it seems that Ester will have to do some rebelling against her non secular and controlling mother, while Ragna might simply use some time to simply be a teen, saddled as she is with an irresponsible mother who occasions quite a lot of, leaving Ragna to maintain her little brother. Nattestad and Heðinsdóttir are very good and while the film doesn’t ruin any new ground, Stora and Kjelnæs have made a nice debut.

Aside from seeing new films and meeting filmmakers and actors from around the global, no doubt some of the primary draws of top-tier film festivals is the chance to look films thru some of the masters of their craft with discussed legend in attendance. This 12 months’s RIFF had every Werner Herzog and Olivier Assayas as venerated guests, doing Q&As at screenings of a couple of of their classics and participating in grab classes for festival attendees. While Herzog left previous to I arrived, Assayas hosted a screening of his antique 1996 film Irma Vep, and held a Q&A, relating his influences for the film (Abel Ferrara’s Snake Eyes, for one) continuing the discussion into the lobby. There are simply only some events that provide the chance to fulfill and keep in touch to the likes of Herzog and Assayas, apart from you’re a member of the clicking.

One of the utmost invigorating problems about RIFF is the Talent Lab, a series of screenings, panels and talks given thru veteran people of the film industry to an audience of film students from all over the global. Participants moreover compete for The Golden Egg, an award given to more youthful and aspiring skills with a temporary film underneath 30 minutes. Going to film faculty is one thing, alternatively with the ability to accumulate for every week in a far-away place, watch every other’s artwork and be informed from those who have gone previous to is an invaluable phase to an nascent filmmaker’s career. Film is a collaborative art work, and enabling students to collaborate during international borders best makes the industry stronger. Each and every Talent Lab participant I encountered used to be as soon as blown away thru their experience.

One of the benefits of serving on a contest jury (besides being whisked off to a far-away place) is that guests, filmmakers and perhaps an area bold-faced name or two all typically generally tend to head backward and forward in a pack, and it used to be as soon as as a result of this aspect that I came upon myself at a dinner with Bjork. Of trail, any individual this is acutely aware of how small Iceland is hopes to bump into Bjork on the corner pub, walking her dog or on the local pool (Icelancers love going for a soak), alternatively a colleague of mine has attended RIFF eight events and has however to fulfill her, while I finished up sitting back-to-back at the side of her at a dinner. She knowledgeable us stories about mixing her new album, and then presented us up the road to the tiny opening party for an area arts festival. (She used two female sound engineers/mixers—one from Egypt—which is lovely unusual within the track biz and also how they got carried away and ended up with “35 versions of every song.” It drops next month.)

It used to be as soon as there that I discovered that Iceland has as regards to no custom of well-known particular person. Bjork rolled up, head to toe in turquoise with a turquoise jacket and platform heels and no person cared. I suggest, her friends discussed hi and she or he presented them to us, alternatively she used to be as soon as simply their neighbor, now not an Oscar-nominated, Cannes Best Actress successful, international well-known particular person. It used to be as soon as refreshing, to say the least, and used to be as soon as an indication that at the entire, Icelanders don’t give a rat’s ass about problems that aren’t necessary, just like the cult of well-known particular person. They like her because of they like her (or they don’t), but it surely unquestionably has now not anything else to do with being well known. (This laissez faire attitude against standing extends to politics, as we moreover met the president of Iceland at a reception at his space. He’s an historian and is, it sort of feels that, listed within the phone e e-book.)

While an fit that presentations films from all over the global, supplies attendees the chance interact with filmmakers and others in intimate settings and does so in a novel and delightful setting isn’t unique to RIFF, it’s exceedingly unusual and, I believe, a big part of what brings planeloads of film fanatics to Reykjavik annually. One afternoon I used to be as soon as standing outside the tiny cinema within the Marina Hotel when I used to be as soon as approached thru an individual that discussed: “Yagong?” I didn’t catch what he used to be as soon as pronouncing, so he repeated it: “Yagong?” I can must have looked confused, so he slowed it down and discussed: “Are you going? To the screening?” Turns out he used to be as soon as an American from the New York house which were coming to the contest for years. “I’ve seen 15 films in five days!” he discussed with a grin, as he ran off to what I feel used to be as soon as his 16th.

That RIFF evokes such fervor is a testament to the programming, stunning body of workers and locals, and, now not by means of the best way, astoundingly excellent foods and is why RIFF has jumped to the height of my document of events to suggest to film travelers, along with travelers who simply like to look at films. Go to Iceland for the glaciers and watch a few films while you’re there, or cross principally for RIFF and take a day to visit the Game of Thrones set. Either means, you’ll be in for an incredible adventure.

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