The 7th Reykjavík International Film Festival (September 23rd — October 3rd) came to a fitting end with its customary award ceremony and closing film. Iceland´s capital sits in this unique and somewhat isolated island between America and mainland Europe but the festival programmers have worked hard since 2004 at pulling in the crowds with films from countries that, from the Icelandic viewpoint, are also geographically remote places.
The sections of this year's festival underlined the programs diversity, not least the Open Seas section which presented 18 acclaimed films, many having their Nordic premiere. Special Presentations screened 11 new films by well known directors, including Todd Solondz and Thomas Vinterberg while the Docs In Focus section featured 14 very diverse, resonant and thought-provoking documentaries. In contrast, there were a section on the popular fusion of music and cinema called Sound and Sight and a Youth Program which focused on films and documentaries suitable for a younger audience. The Icelandic Panorama showcased five of the latest homegrown feature films for audiences to discover and Focus On offered examples of new films from Poland and Sweden. For the second year there were also films and documentaries about culinary delights called Food on Film. Shorts, seminars and conferences featured conspicuously and the advances in transworld communication media was exemplified in a live video-conference with Noam Chomsky talking, amongst other subjects, about the near-collapse of the western economic system and the environment.
The recipient of the festival's creative excellence award this year was independent film legend Jim Jarmusch. Commenting on his 30-year career, the director said that imagination and expression in art and science are most powerful and summarized that "My religion is the imagination." Jarmusch described the production process of his films as very much a collaborative effort with his crew, particularly commending his cameraman Christopher Doyle and editor Jay Rabinowitz. The festival screened two of Jarmusch's films, Down by Law (1986) and his latest The Limits of Control (2009). The late Italian film director Elio Petri was also honored with a four-film retrospective program and a new section called Emerging Master featured three films by Hungarian director Benedik Fliegauf, including the Nordic premiere of his latest film Womb.
The festival's New Visions (Grand Prix Competition) consisted of 12 films from first or second time directors with almost all worthy of the standard of competing for the festival's main award the Golden Puffin. The same films also competed for the Fipresci critics' award. In the end, however, one film stood out from the competition for its originality and boldness. The Fipresci Jury chose the Italian film The Four Times (Le Quattro Volte), the second film by Italian director Michelangelo Frammartino for a brave and fresh approach to the film medium which conveys both spiritually and poetically the inexorable forces of nature. Furthermore, it underlines that narrative cinema does not need to rely on dialogue to fully involve the audience in its means of expression. The main jury also awarded The Four Times while the Church Of Iceland awarded the Rumanian film Tomorrow (Morgen) by Marian Crisan and a special mention to the Polish redemption film The Christening (Chrzest) by Marcin Wrona.
At the closing ceremony, festival director Hrönn Marinósdóttir said this year contained more films and higher audience figures than ever before; making it easily the biggest festival so far. She also paid tribute to the many people who have worked hard for the festival, not least the ubiquitous volunteers. Looking out from Reykjavik to the open seas, there is cause to believe that this festival will be welcoming many more visitors in the years to come. (Steven Yates)
Reykjavík International Film Festival: www.riff.is