Reykjavík International Film Festival Launches Despite Decrease in Funding

reykjavík international film festival

The Reykjavík International Film Festival (RIFF) will be beginning its 19th season this September 29th. However, the scope of the event will be slightly pulled back this year, given recent cuts in public funding to the arts.

A Reykjavík institution

RIFF has become a centre of the film scene in Iceland is recent years, spotlighting lesser-known international directors. Despite the decline in funding, some 70 films will be featured from 59 nations.

Especially prevalent this year will be short-form films, with some 207 short films featured. Additionally, a special emphasis is being placed this year on women in filmmaking, with a majority of the featured films directed by female directors.

New tech

In a drive to reduce the environmental impact of RIFF, the use of printed materials such as programmes and posters will be reduced. Instead of programmes, RIFF is launching an app this year to help reduce paper waste.

Movie-goers will be able to access the programme schedule, in addition to buy tickets and find other information about the screenings.

Anticipated releases

Several films will be making their world premiere at this year’s RIFF, such as Icelandic director Sigurjón Sighvatsson’s Exxtinction Emergency, a documentary about the Extinction Rebellion environmental movement.

RIFF has also been known for untraditional screenings, including drive-in car screenings and pool screening at Reykjavík’s swimming facilities. This year RIFF will also feature a glacial screening inside Langjökull, where Lars Ostenfeld’s documentary Into the Ice will be shown. According to a press release from RIFF, this represents “a unique opportunity to understand and perceive the power of filmmaking in the natural setting of the film’s subject.”


New Film Casts Iceland’s Polish Community in New Light

Wolka arrives in Icelandic theatres today, RÚV reports. The Polish-Icelandic production made its debut at this year’s Reykjavík International Film Festival and is the last film made by director Árni Ólafur Ásgeirsson, who died last spring at the age of 49, just three months after being diagnosed with cancer.

Wolka tells the story of a Polish woman who has just finished a 15-year sentence in prison for murder. For reasons known only to herself, she breaks parole and travels to Iceland in search of a woman.

The film, Árni Ólafur’s fourth, was in the works for some time—almost a decade, in fact. Árni Ólafur, who was married to Polish set designer Marta Luiza Macuga, had lived in Poland and wanted to make a movie about Polish society in Iceland. After moving back to Iceland, he met screenwriter Michal Godzic. They began working on the script together and nine years later, the film is finally ready for audiences.

In addition to its debut at RIFF, a special screening of Wolka was also held in the Westman Islands. “It was certainly emotional for my son and I,” said Marta. “It was so strange to be there without Árni. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the Westmans. Wherever I went, I felt like Árni should be there with us. It was easier here in Reykjavík, the team was with me so it was more bearable. I could enjoy it more and celebrate the movie coming out. It’s done and people will appreciate it.”

Olga Bołądź, one of Poland’s most prominent film stars, played the leading role of Anna. “I met Árni Ólafur in Poland,” she recalled. “He called and asked if I wanted to play Anna. I read the script and fell for it, it was such a beautiful role that offered up so many possibilities. I said yes—yes, thank you. He was one of the most remarkable directors I’ve ever worked with.”

Filming in the Westmans during the winter was difficult, Olga noted, but she recalled it positively. “It was hard because of the weather, it was freezing. But Iceland is such a beautiful country and the people friendly and showed me such kindness, especially the Poles because everywhere I went, I met Poles. They were really proud that there was a film being made about Poles who live in Iceland. I hope that they’ll like it.”

Olga believes that Wolka is a story that will have a broad appeal. “The film is part mystery and part adventure, but it is also a family drama. I think that everyone can relate to family drama.” And while the story may have particular significance for Poles living in Iceland, Olga believes that it will expand people’s notions about this community. “The story is certainly about Polish society [in Iceland], but it shows it in a new light. Árni wanted to show that Poles are not just a labour force, but also people with feelings, who laugh and cry. We are normal people like all other nations.”

An earlier version of the article falsely stated that Árni passed away last year. 

RIFF Kicks Off with ‘Bipolar Musical Documentary with Elephants’

The 17th annual Reykjavík International Film Festival, or RIFF, will kick off this year on September 24 and, for the first time, will include online screenings and events, Vísir reports.

The festival will open with a night screening of The Third Pole, a “bipolar musical documentary with elephants” by author and former presidential candidate Andri Snær Magnason and visual artist and director Anní Ólafsdóttir.

Per the description on Andri Snær’s website, The Third Pole is “part road movie, part musical, part serious inquiry into the caverns of the mind” and “follows Anna Tara Edwards, an Icelander raised in Nepal, and legendary musician Högni Egilsson, as they journey to Anna’s childhood home in the mountain jungles to explore the afflictions and superpowers that come with bipolar disorder. Delving into their respective pasts through textured archival footage and home videos, the narrative follows their present-day quest to raise awareness about the disease and come to terms with the impact it’s had on their own lives.”

This is Anní Ólafsdóttir’s first feature-length film, but Andri Snær’s second foray into filmmaking, as he previously co-directed Dreamland, a documentary based on his book Dreamland – a Self Help Manual for a Frightened Nation.

RIFF will run from September 24 to October 20, with in-person screenings at Bíó Paradís and the Nordic House in Reykjavík. This year, the festival is also expanding its reach (and responding to the needs of the current moment) by offering online screenings and events as well. The festival will be highlighting European films this year, as the European Film Awards will be presented in Iceland in December.

See more about the festival, including information on the daily program and how to buy tickets (both available soon) in English here.