The History

RIFF – Reykjavík International Film Festival – is one of the biggest and most diverse cultural events in Iceland. RIFF is an independent non-profit organization. Our staff works all year round to organize the festival but we could not do that without the help of volunteers from all over the world that come to Reykjavík every year to help out.

For eleven days every fall since 2004, Icelandic locals and tourists alike are able to go to the cinema and enjoy the best and freshest of international film making. Our guests can also meet and chat with directors about their works, attend panels and workshops, concerts and exhibitions, and even watch interesting films under even more interesting conditions, for instance in a swimming pool or in the filmmaker’s home.

The festival also manages the RIFF industry office, complete with a video library, information and guest services, and co-organizes networking meetings and dinners for the attending professionals. The festival shows a wide range of dramas and non-fiction films from over 40 countries. The festival highlights independent film making from all over the world with the emphasis on up-and-coming filmmakers, with the main prize – the Golden Puffin, being awarded only to first or second-time directors.

RIFF was founded in September 2004, by a small group of film professionals and film enthusiasts led by Festival Director Hrönn Marinósdóttir, with the goal of presenting new and progressive quality films, supporting innovation in filmmaking, networking between professionals from various parts of the world and fostering social and cultural dialogue.

Our Program

Over the last few years, RIFF has screened approximately 100 feature films from roughly 40 countries annually. For your convenience, they are arranged in a number of different categories that have solidified over time:

New Visions (Grand Prix Competition) –In New Visions, up-and-coming directors present their first or second feature film and compete for our main prize, the Golden Puffin. These films challenge cinematic conventions and pave the way for tomorrow’s cinema.

Open Seas (Out of Competition) – Every year a few distinct films make the headlines on the festival circuit. These are exciting – and sometimes masterful – works, some by established filmmakers, others by newcomers. Here we have the cream of this past year’s crop.

A Different Tomorrow – Can we sustain our way of living indefinitely or must we change our lifestyles? Can our planet handle prolonged maltreatment? Do we behave ethically towards one another? The films in A Different Tomorrow shed light on environmental and humanitarian topics because, sometimes, the right film can change the world.

Documentaries –Our documentary programme aims to educate and inform, but also to mediate knowledge in new and exciting ways. A great documentary ignites our imaginations and can have a profound impact on its viewer and society by presenting unexpected viewpoints or new information.

Icelandic Panorama – RIFF is the meeting point of Icelandic and international cinema. Icelandic Panorama presents new films that have strong Icelandic connections.

Masters and Honorary Guests – Art films are often auteur-driven projects by visionary individuals with extreme talent. In this section, we celebrate a few of these masters and screen their work.

Honorary Retrospective – This section offers a rare opportunity to see the classic films directed by each year’s recipient of the RIFF Honorary Award glint on the silver screen. Our guests of honour in 2019 were Claire Denis, John Hawkes and Katja Adomeit.

In Focus – Austria was in focus 2019. We will screen a great variety of different films with a broad focus.

Horror Highlights & Arctic Chills –Horror movies and genre cinema have long since become a regular part of festival programming all over the world and now RIFF puts this genre into the spotlight. We emphasise on arctic chills mixed with horror from different parts of the world to exhibit the variety of horror in its bloodspitten glory.

International Shorts – A finely curated selection of brave, artistic and delicate voices. With urgency and determination, these talented filmmakers make us travel beyond the borders of reality, expanding the scope of our imagination, reinventing cinema within every frame, demonstrated in this section.

Special Events – Reykjavík International Film Festival, RIFF, is all about the experience, and while few things measure up to watching a good film at the cinema, we feel that it is important to spice up our program with a few special events. Among Special Events at RIFF 2019 are films shown in unconventional venues such as pools and homes for the elderly, panels and RIFF Talk. Please see events for children and teenagers under Young RIFF.

RIFF Around Town – We believe that films can change the world and we exert to reach out to those who can’t attend RIFF. We spread out and screen influential films at libraries, nursing homes and prisons to name a few locations. RIFF focuses on young filmmakers and progressive film productions. Films that touch people, educate and enlighten. It is our desired goal that most film-lovers can enjoy these films during the festival and therefore we have RIFF Around Town.

Honorary Guests Throughout the Years

Our guests throughout the years have included: Jim Jarmusch, Mike Leigh, Ruben Östlund, Milos Forman, Peter Greenaway, Costa Gavras, Hanna Schygulla, Béla Tarr, Aki Kaurismäki, Hal Hartley, Shirin Neshat, Susanne Bier, Atom Egoyan, Abbas Kiarostami, Dario Argento, Thomas Bangalter, Guy-Manuel de Homem Christo, James Marsh, Lone Scherfig, Marjane Satrapi, Aleksandr Sokurov, Andrea Arnold, Ulrich Thomsen, Ulrike Ottinger, Damo Suzuki, Darren Aronofsky, Deepa Mehta, Werner Herzog, Olivier Assayas, Valeska Grisebach, Jonas Mekas, Laila Pakalnina, Sergei Loznitsa, Mads Mikkelsen, John Hawkes, Claire Denis and Katja Adomeit.