Magazine article Screen International

Reykjavik Festival Director Reflects on Growing Event

Magazine article Screen International

Reykjavik Festival Director Reflects on Growing Event

Article excerpt

"Many people said at the beginning that this is an event no-one will be interested in," recalls festival director and founder Hrönn Marinósdóttir.

The local distributors told her that young people liked only Hollywood films and that RIFF had little chance in working.

In its 12th edition, the picture is very different. It is now estimated that around 30,000 people will attend festival events of screenings - that's to say close to 10% of the Icelandic population (which stands at approximately 323,000) .

The biggest audience group is young people, aged 18-30. Ticket pricess are accessible (at the equivalent of under euro10).

"We want everybody to access the festival and so we have student discounts and discounts for the elderly."

David Cronenberg and Margarethe Von Trotta have been in Reykjavik this week. At a special ceremony on Wednesday evening held at Bessastaðir; the home of the president of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, both were awarded honrorary Lifetime Achievement Awards.

Back in 2004, Marinósdóttir, an Icelandic journalist who had been living in Spain, realised that very few of the best independent films shown in festivals and distributed elsewhere in Europe were reaching Iceland. On journalistic trips to the Berlinale and eslewhere, she had seen how festivals could give cities a huge shot of energy.

"It was ot only for the filmmakers but also for the public," Marinósdóttir recalls. "It was in the back of my head that this was something we really needed for Iceland."

After taking an MBA degree, Marinósdóttir had made a proposal to the Ministry of Culture and the city authorities to launch a festival in Reykjavik. They agreed. "The idea was first and foremost to change the cinema culture of Iceland. We wanted to show the Icelanders that there are extremely good films producer in Europe and all around the world."

As the organisers quickly discovered, Reykjavik is an excellent place in which to hold a festival. It is compact and picturesque. Early guests included figures like Guy Maddin, Costa Gavras and Alexander Sokurov. The "big names" from world cinema always seemed to relish the chance to come to Iceland. Reykjavik is known as "a young, vibrant" city and the organisers were detemined that the event would reflect the atmosphere in the city.

The big names of contemporary Icelanidic cinema, from the veteran Friðrik Þór Friðriksson to Everest director Baltasar Kormákur, have championed RIFF from the outset. …

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