From Iceland — Return Of The RIFF: The Reykjavík International Film Festival Bounces Back

Return Of The RIFF: The Reykjavík International Film Festival Bounces Back

Published August 29, 2021

Return Of The RIFF: The Reykjavík International Film Festival Bounces Back
John Pearson
Photo by
Aicha Macky via RIFF

This September sees the return of Iceland’s leading celebration of cinema to its more familiar format, following a year of suspended animation enforced by the pandemic.

In 2020 the Reykjavík International Film Festival rode out the viral waves by taking to the streets—and to the digital streams—to reach an Icelandic public unable to gather in cinemas. The RIFF Bus roved the land, carrying its programme of children’s films and independent flicks to communities beyond the capital, and allowing regional audiences to experience the safely isolated delights of a drive-in cinema.

Meanwhile RIFF Home, the festival’s online offering, allowed viewers to take it all in from their couch: a particularly attractive proposition given that you can make your own popcorn, and pause that Belgian art house classic while you nip out to the loo.

Back to the bíó

However now that the festival can return to physical venues, it will be bringing this year’s offerings—which will have a focus on Dutch cinema and film music—to locations such as Bíó Paradís and The Nordic House. But the bolstered online element will remain, and there will be special events in Reykjavík and beyond, including the return of the RIFF drive-in cinema experience.

Since its inception in 2004 RIFF has not only brought fine cinema to the masses; it has also developed a purpose as patron of the cinematic creative community. Alongside Industry Days, (RIFF’s networking and learning events for cinema professionals), the festival runs The Talent Lab, a programme for emerging film creatives who are just starting their journey. Participants have the chance for their short film to feature in the festival’s official program, and to be in with the chance of winning RIFF’s prized Golden Egg award. And then there’s RIFF4Future, the festival’s innovative three-day workshop for young Nordic filmmakers.

Three to see

Over its eleven-day run, RIFF 2021 will screen more than 180 films from around the world. To help you choose from this cinematic cornucopia, The Grapevine has pulled out three favourites from the festivities.

Sisters With Transistors
Year: 2020
Director: Lisa Rovner

The role played by female innovators in the field of electronic music often lies underexplored, other than when BBC-based titans Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire are (quite rightly) pushed to the front.

This engaging documentary spreads the electronic net much wider, bringing to the fore other women who pushed the boundaries as composers, musicians and engineers to shape the soundscapes we take for granted today.

Year: 2021
Director: Aicha Macky

The director shines a light on her hometown of Zinder in Niger, where “Palais”—gangs feared by the local community—hold sway. But some of these young men are trying to break free from the trap of jobless violence. Macky’s film peels back their bravado, often revealing desperate but hopeful youths in search of dignity.

The School Of Housewives
Year: 2020
Director: Stefanía Thors

This gentle and fascinating documentary made a splash at last year’s festival, going on to represent Iceland at this year’s BBC LongShots international film competition. Although technically not a part of RIFF 2021, its insights into Icelandic culture make it compulsory viewing for anyone who missed it last year.

The story is about a school in Reykjavík which has taught traditional domestic crafts to aspiring housewives since 1942. The school has moved with the times, and for a while now has accepted male pupils—artist Ragnar Kjartansson is a high-profile alumnus—but its future is never secure, as Icelandic social fashions ebb and flow around it.

The winner of the LongShots competition is decided through a public vote; you can cast yours here until August 31st 2021.

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