From Iceland — RIFF Guide: What To See If You're Into...

RIFF Guide: What To See If You’re Into…

RIFF Guide: What To See If You’re Into…

Published September 27, 2016

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Cover Image from 'The Island And The Whales'
film stills

The RIFF audience has a lot of decisions to make with a program than spans eleven days and screens over 140 movies. Our trusted cinephile Mark Asch compiled a list of recommendations to guide you on your way. Here is what to see if you’re into…

…Hot Topics

Gianfranco Rosi’s ‘Fire at Sea’, shot around the Sicilian island of Lampedusa at the height of the European refugee crisis, has earned praise at major film festivals around the world for its urgency and poetry. It’s the highest-profile new film in this year’s RIFF lineup, but not the only documentary to tackle the plight of migrants in our supposedly our global world. If reading about Trump’s Make America Great Wall and Iceland’s interpretation of the Dublin Regulation gets you all het up: ‘Chasing Asylum’ takes a look at offshore detention in Australia, while the Spanish ‘Walls’ looks at people who live on the right and wrong side of borders in Africa, Europe, and, yes, the Americas.


‘Fire At Sea’ directed by Gianfranco Rosi

… Old Masters

Within this year’s spotlight on Polish film, rejoice at the “Decalogue” of the late, great Krzysztof Kieślowski: ten short films made for Polish television in the late 1980s, loosely inspired by the Ten Commandments, that will change your life if you let them. This year’s festival also features Guests of Honor Darren Aronofsky, returning to the country where he shot ‘Noah’—which will not screen at RIFF, though film-school favourites ‘Requiem for a Dream’, ‘The Wrestler’ and ‘Black Swan’ will—and the Canadian director Deepa Mehta, whose brand-new ‘Anatomy of Violence’ imagines the lives leading up to a shocking real-life Delhi crime of 2012.

The Decalogues directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski

The Decalogues directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski

… New Blood

The 27-year-old Russian director Ivan I. Tverdovskiy has raised hackles across the festival circuit with his second feature ‘Zoology’, about a middle-aged woman who starts to grow a tail. The Rome-based duo Rainer Frimmel and Tizza Covi’s ‘Mister Universo’, about an out-of-work lion tamer seeking a meeting with an aging strongman, is the latest work from a duo known for magic-neorealist portraits of European marginalia. And the Polish filmmaker Michael Marczak is represented with ‘Fuck for Forest’, a star-crossed portrait of radical eco-activism, and ‘All These Sleepless Nights’, an experimental documentary about the passions and indulgences of youth.

Zoology directed by Ivan I. Tverdovsky

Zoology directed by Ivan I. Tverdovsky

… Boldface Names

New York City’s eternal It Girl, Chloë Sevigny, will appear at the festival to present her directorial debut ‘Kitty’, a short adapted from a Paul Bowles story. ‘Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell’ follows up with the child prostitute who stole the screen in the photographer Mary Ellen Mark’s landmark 1984 documentary ‘Streetwise’. And in ‘My Scientology’ movie, charismatic UK television presenter Louis Theroux takes a playful look inside Scientology—or as far inside as he can, anyway.

Tiny: The Life Of Erin Blackwell directed by Martin Bell

Tiny: The Life Of Erin Blackwell directed by Martin Bell

… Nordic Neighbors

Dogme 95 cofounder Thomas Vinterberg delves into his memories of growing up on a hippie commune in 1970s Denmark for his dramedy ‘The Commune’, while Norwegian writer-director Erik Skjoldbjærg attempts a study of a single disturbed mind, a teenage arsonist, in ‘Pyromania’. From Sweden, Johannes’s Nyholm’s first feature ‘The Giant’ concerns an autistic man with a massive face tumor on his journey to a pétanque tournament, while the documentary ‘Cheer Up’ concerns some of the worst cheerleaders in Finland (and the festival’s sole Greenlandic film, ‘STG’, profiles the best rock band in Nuuk, Small Time Giants). ‘The Islands and the Whales’ looks at the effects of ecological change on the Faroe Islands.


STG directed by Aka Hansen

Check out the full program for the festival, which runs until October 9. 

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