Honorees & Special Guests
Everyone involved with RIFF puts in enormous effort to make every festival edition as impressive as possible, which is especially reflected in the quality of films that we are proud to present. To recognize the countless hours of effort that are put into each individual film, we at RIFF honor the best works, in their respective categories, with unique awards.
As an international film festival, RIFF has welcomed numerous guests from all over the world throughout the years. Have a look at the individual talents, which, through its history, have helped shape RIFF into an event which no one wants to miss.
Joachim Trier, born in 1974, grew up in Oslo, Norway in a family of filmmakers. His first foray into filmmaking came as a teenager, making skateboard-montage videos with friends. Later he studied filmmaking in Denmark and the UK, and his short films promptly brought him acclaim. His first two features, Reprise (2006) and Oslo, August 31st (2011), are classic tales of young people on crossroads in the Norwegian capital told in realist fashion. Both earned praise and awards at film festivals on both sides of the Atlantic. His two following features presented different challenges– Louder than Bombs (2015), featured stars such as Isabelle Huppert and Jesse Eisenberg and was his English-language debut, and Thelma (2017), brought Trier into the realm of the fantastic in a coming-of-age tale of a young woman. His newest feature, The Worst Person in the World (2021), premiered at Cannes Film Festival and completes his Oslo Trilogy. His work revolves around character-driven stories with existential themes, commonly told with rich emotional sensitivity. Joachim Trier is one of Scandinavia’s leading modern filmmakers.
Born in Paris in 1981, Mia Hansen-Løve attended the National Academy of Dramatic Arts, and then worked as a film critic at Cahiers du Cinema before moving on to her first passion: directing. Her body of work consists of seven features, which have won her awards (Silver Bear at Berlin Film Festival among others) and the acclaim of audiences and film critics alike. Her films are always personal and strike an interesting blend between fiction and the autobiographical. They are defined by an understated style, sometimes described as transparent, which provides for the viewer a clear pathway into the world of each story. Intelligent and dialogue-driven, Hansen-Løve‘s narratives put characters and atmosphere at the forefront and always contain a strong emotional grounding. Her emotionally-deep and distinct films are at the forefront of contemporary French cinema.
Actress Trine Dyrholm (b. 1972) became known in her native Denmark at a young age. At fourteen she placed third in the preliminaries for Eurovision Song Contest, with the song “Danse i måneskin” and at eighteen she received a Bodil Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her screen debut in Springflod (1990). Subsequently she studied at the Danish National School of Theatre and, since the millennium, she has become one of Denmark’s leading screen actors. Working frequently with Denmark’s brightest directorial talents, such as Susanne Bier and Thomas Vinterberg – she is known for her performances in In a Better World (2010), The Commune (2016) and Queen of Hearts (2019) to name but a few. She has received a record-breaking number of seven Bodil Awards and a Silver Bear Award at Berlin Film Festival for her outstanding work. It is our honour to welcome such an iconic actress of Danish cinema to the festival and witness her newest venture, the epic Margrete – Queen of the North, in her presence.
Debbie Harry (b. 1945), the legendary American singer, songwriter and actress, is best known as the lead vocalist of rock band Blondie. She grew up in New Jersey and founded Blondie with Chris Stein in 1974. Stemming from the creative melting pot of 1970s New York – Blondie provided a beautiful link between the punk and avant-garde tendencies of CBGB, the liberating disco movement of Studio 54, and the burgeoning wave of hip hop emerging from the Bronx. The band became an international phenomenon – releasing classic albums such as Parallel Lines and hit singles such as Heart of Glass, Call Me, Rapture and The Tide Is High, selling around 40 million records in the process. Debbie Harry has released five solo albums and starred in films such as David Cronenberg’s classic, Videodrome. Blondie is active and we are fortunate to witness the short concert documentary Blondie: Vivir en la Habana, in the Cinema Beats! Shorts program, in Debbie’s presence.
Katja Adomeit was born in 1981 in Bad Schwartau in Germany. She is a producer and has produced the short films Lars & Peter, which in 2009 was selected for the contest on the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, as well as Berik, which was awarded a Grand Prix Award in Semaine de la Critique-content in Cannes in 2010. She is also known for her work on Not at Home (2013), The Square (2017) and Turist (2014).
Claire Denis was born on the 21th of April, 1946 in Paris, France but was raised in colonial French Africa. She is a director and writer and worked with themes of colonial and post-colonial West Africa. Her feature film Beau Travail (1999) has been called one of the greatest films of the 1990s, winning multiple awards. Other acclaimed works of her include Trouble Every Day (2001), 35 Shots of Rum (2008), White Material (2009) and High Life (2018.
John was born on the 11th of September, 1959 in Alexandria, Minnesota, USA. He is an actor and has starred in the critically-acclaimed, Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005), which received wide praise and was awarded the special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival, as well as the Camera d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Additional feature credits include From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), A Slipping-Down Life (1999), the psychological thrill-er Identity (2003) and Miami Vice (2006).
Ómar Ragnarsson is well known in Iceland as a prominent television figure. For decades he has filmed nature from his airplane for material to include in his television series. He is also well known as a comedian and has often made the nation laugh with his singing and comedy. For many years he has dedicated himself to the fight for environmental protection and has generously volunteered countless hours of his time to the cause. Icelanders are much indebted to Ómar, because without his work Iceland’s pristine natural environment might not be valued as it is today.
Mads Mikkelsen was born on the 22th of November 1965 in Østerbro, Denmark. He is an actor who started out in the 1996 success movie Pusher (1996) and slowly became one of Denmark's biggest movie actors. The success in his home country includes Flickering Lights (2000), En kort en lang (2001) and the Emmy-winning police series Rejseholdet (2000). His success has taken him abroad where he has played Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the critically acclaimed NBC series Hannibal (2013), from 2013 to 2015, with great success.
Shailene Woodley was born on the 15th of November 1991 in San Bernardino County, Californien, USA. She is an actress and her debut was in 1999's Replacing Dad (1999). In 2011 she had her big screen breakthrough when she appeared in Alexander Payne's The Descendants (2011). Her performance in the role of Alexandra King brought critical acclaim and recognition by the movie industry. She won an Independent Spirit Award and the 2012 MTV Movie Awards Breakthrough Performance Award, as well as a Golden Globe nomination.
Jonas Mekas was born on the 24th of December 1922 in Semeniskiai, Birzai, Lithuania and died January 23, 2019. He was a director, cinematographer, editor, writer, actor, poet, artist and publicist. More than 60 years of tireless work in film, arts and media has earned him the epithet "The Godfather of American Avant-Garde Cinema". One of his most acclaimed works was the experimental documentary film "As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty" from 2000.
Laila Pakalnina was born on the 4th of June, 1962 in Liepaja, Latvian SSR, USSR. She is a director and writer and has directed over 20 movies in her career. Some of her works are the films Kurpe (1998), Pitons (2003), Ausma (2015) and Dawn (2015). Dawn (2015) was selected as the Latvian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards and her film Kurpe (1998) was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival.
Sergei Loznitsa was born on the 5th of September 1964 in Baranovichi, Belarus. He is a director and has been making documentary films since 1996 and is the author of 21 documentaries, as well as 4 feature films. In 2013 Sergei Loznitsa launched a film production and distribution company ATOMS & VOID. Currently working in both documentary and feature genres. Some of his works include the film My Joy which in 2010 was selected for the main competition at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.
Olivier Assayas was born on the 25th of January 1955 in Paris, France. He is a director, screenwriter and film critic. Assayas is known for his slow-burning period pieces, psychological thrillers, neo-noirs and French comedies. He is best known for his films Demonlover (2002), Something in the Air (2012), Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) and Personal Shopper (2016). His films have been screened multiple times at Cannes Film Festival, the first one being Cold Water (1994) becoming a breakthrough film in his career.
Werner Herzog was born on the 5th of September 1942 in Munich Germany. He is a director, writer, producer, actor and poet. He founded his own film production company in 1963. Later in his life, Herzog staged several operas in Bayreuth, Germany, and at the Milan Scala in Italy. Herzog has won numerous national and international awards for his poetic feature and documentary films. He has produced, written, and directed more than sixty feature films and documentaries.
Valeska Grisebach was born on the 4th of January 1968 in Bremen, Germany. She is a director and writer known for her films Be My Star (2001), Longing (2006), and Western (2017). Grisebach's diploma film Mein Stern (Be My Star) won the International Critics' Award at the Toronto International Film Festival as well as the prize for Best Feature Film at the Turin Film Festival. Her latest Film Western (2017) premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017 and winning a Film Prize at the Festival of German Film.
Chloë Sevigny, born in 1974 in Springfield, Massachusetts, is an award-winning film actress and fashion designer. She made her film debut with a lead role in the controversial but respected film ‘Kids’ (1995) and she was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her role in ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ (1999). Sevigny has starred in many notable independent films including ‘American Psycho’ (2000) and ‘Dogville’ (2003). She has also performed in a number of television series including ‘Big Love’, for which she won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in 2010.
Mehta is a Canadian film director and screenwriter. She was born in Amritsar, India in 1950 and attended the University of New Delhi, graduating with a Masters degree in Philosophy before immigrating to Canada in 1973. Mehta has received international acclaim for her moving and provocative films, which often explore issues of human rights and social injustice. She is perhaps best known for her epic ‘Elements trilogy’ - ‘Fire’ (1996), ’Earth’ (1998) and ’Water’ (2005). The latter was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Darren Aronofsky was born on the 12th of February 1969 in Brooklyn, New York, USA. He is a director, producer, and screenwriter and his films are known for their surreal, melodramatic, and often disturbing elements, which are often based in psychological horror and drama. He won several film awards after completing his senior thesis film, Supermarket Sweep. His feature debut, the surrealist psychological thriller Pi (1997), earned him the Directing Award at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival and an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay.
Piers Handling was born 1949 in Canada. He is a former CEO of Toronto’s Film Festival, a position he held from 1994 till 2018, where he was replaced by Joana Vicente. In 2003 Handling was named CEO of the Year by the Canadian Public Relations Society. Some of his recognitions are Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (1997), Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012) Clyde Gilmour Award (2014), Order of Ontario (2014) and the Order of Canada (2017).
Cronenberg was called the ‘Baron of Blood,’ a name afforded to him when he churned out a series of visceral horror-pictures, beginning with his 1975 debut ‘Shivers.’ It marked the beginning of an oddly compelling inquiry into the relationship between body, mind, technology and mass media which extended throughout the 1980s when he moved towards a more cerebral form of filmmaking: be it tales of sexual perversity or explorations of alternate realities - hallucinogenic, virtual, or schizophrenic. In the 21st century, Cronenberg has made a series of dark dramas which shed light on the violence we all foster inside.
Margarethe Von Trotta
Margarethe von Trotta is one of the leading directors of the New German Cinema of the ‘60s and ‘70s. She brought a youthful and fresh view to contemporary cinema as she dealt with contemporary social issues and framed them experimentally, where artistry was foregrounded and complex technical executions were set aside.
Ruben Östlund was born on the 13th of April 1974 in Styrsö, Göteborg, Sweden. He is director and screenwriter most know for his films Force Majeure (2014) and the satirical picture The Square (2017). Both films received critical acclaim, with Force Majeure (2014) winning the Jury Prize in the section Un Certain Regard at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. At the 50th Guldbagge Awards in Sweden it won Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Editing.
Mike Leigh was born on the 20th of February 1943 in Brocket Hall, Hatfield, Great Britain. Leigh's most notable works are the black comedy-drama Naked (1993), for which he won the Best Director Award at Cannes, the Oscar-nominated, BAFTA- and Palme d'Or-winning drama Secrets & Lies (1996), the Golden Lion-winning working-class drama Vera Drake (2004), and the Palme d'Or-nominated biopic Mr. Turner (2014). Leigh is known for his lengthy rehearsal and improvisation techniques with actors to build characters and narrative for his films.
Lukas Moodysson was born 1969 in Lund, Sweden. His first three features took film festivals and cinemas by storm; the youth drama Show Me Love (Fucking Åmål 1998), the highly amusing dramedy Together (Tilsammans 2000) and the terribly effective Lilya 4-ever (2002). His first feature film, Show Me Love made him recognizable all over the world as the film’s subject, a convincing tale of love and coming of age set in a small and boring Swedish town, had a strong international reference.
Laurent Cantet was born 1961 in Melle, France. He had earned a reputation, through his first three films—Human Resources (Ressources humaines) 1999, Time Out (L’Emploi du temps) 2001 and Heading South (Vers le sud) 2005—as France’s answer to Ken Loach: an earnest director motivated by his conscience, but who wore his political commitments lightly. Cantet’s fourth film, The Class (Entre les murs), won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2008, propelling him into the big league of European directors.
Crime, immigrants and New York City are recurring themes in James Gray’s movies. He was born in New York City in 1969, grew up in Queens and attended the University of Southern California School of Cinema & Television. He made his directorial debut in 1994 at the age of 25 with Little Odessa, a critically acclaimed film. His second film, The Yards, was selected for official competition at the Festival de Cannes 2000, and so was We Own the Night in 2007. Gray’s fourth feature film, the César-award nominated Two Lovers, teamed him with Joaquin Phoenix for the third time. Gwyneth Paltrow and Isabella Rossellini also star in this Brooklyn-set romantic drama.
Ulrike Ottinger grew up in Konstanz. From 1962 until 1968, she lived and worked as an artist in Paris. In 1966, she wrote her first screenplay. Since 1985, she has made a number of long documentaries in Asia. Her works have been shown at the world’s most important film festivals and appreciated in multiple retrospectives, including at the Cinémathèque française in Paris and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Marjane Satrapi was born in 1969. She grew up in Teheran where she studied at the French Lycée. She next continued her studies in Vienna before moving to France in 1994. She then entered the Atelier des Vosges, home to the great names of contemporary comics. In her graphic novel Persepolis, she speaks of her own story and that of her family, resulting in a heartfelt history of the Iranian people. She’s since published a number of books including Embroideries and Chicken With Plums.
“My first job as a filmmaker is to not make a boring film. I don’t see a conflict between art and commerce, but I do see one between boredom and commerce.” Susanne Bier was born 1960 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Her ability to balance art and entertainment is the quality that has made her a popular director in both Europe and Hollywood. Her compelling and important films earned her in 2011 both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for her film In a Better World (Hævnen).
Dario Argento was born 1940 in Rom, Italy and is one of the best-known Italian filmmakers. His works often resemble kinetic paintings, they are full of saturated colours, progressive music and unique visual compositions. He is not interested in realism but in creating a beautiful world that is still full of ugly things and evil spirits. Argento is still busy after more than forty years in the business and an oeuvre of over twenty films.
Damo Suzuki was born 1950 in Japan. He was the vocalist for CAN from 1970-1973 when the band released their best known albums. CAN is one of the most influential bands in history and is generally regarded the central institution of ‘kraut-rock’. Musicians like David Bowie, Brian Ferry, Brian Eno and John Frusciant regard CAN a major influence. Suzuki's first vocal performance with Can was ""Don't Turn the Light On, Leave Me Alone"" from Soundtracks.
Béla Tarr was born on July 21, 1955 in Pécs, Hungary. He is a producer and director, known for Sátántangó (1994), Werckmeister harmóniák (2000) and A torinói ló (2011). Werckmeister harmóniák (2000) is often listed among the major cinematic works of the 21st century. Tarr has been interpreted as having a pessimistic view of humanity; the characters in his works are often cynical, and have tumultuous relationships with one another in ways critics have found to be darkly comic.
Lone Scherfig is a Danish film director and screenwriter, born 1959, who has been involved with the Dogme 95 film movement and who has been widely critically acclaimed for several of her movies, including the Oscar-nominated film An Education (2009). Scherfig's films are generally romantic comedies, including her film One Day (2011), based on the David Nicholls novel. Through both experimenting with creative constraints and her astute attention to detail, she has come to be recognized as a significant talent in the film industry.
James Marsh was born on April 30, 1963 in Truro, Cornwall, England. He is a director and producer, known for The King (2005) and Wisconsin Death Trip (1999). Other famous works of his include Man on Wire, which won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, and The Theory of Everything, the multi-award-winning biopic of physicist Stephen Hawking released in 2014. Marsh received a nomination for the BAFTA for Best Director and the film was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture.
Jim Jarmusch was born 1953, in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, USA. He is a film director, screenwriter, actor, producer, editor, and composer. He has been a major proponent of independent cinema since the 1980s, directing films such as Stranger Than Paradise (1984), Down by Law (1986), Mystery Train (1989), Dead Man (1995), Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), Broken Flowers (2005), Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), Paterson (2016), and The Dead Don't Die (2019).
Vincent Moon was born 1979 in Paris and is an independent filmmaker, photographer, and sound artist. He has deconstructed the music film and created a new genre with his Take Away Shows on www.blogotheque.net. Moon accompanies the musicians with his handheld camera, whose mobility allows him access to even the most intimate spaces. Moon has already portrayed artists such as R.E.M., Arcade Fire, Tom Jones, Sigur Rós, Beirut, Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, and almost 100 other musicians.
Miloš Forman was born in 1932. His parents both died in Auschwitz, his father having been sent there originally for handing out banned books. Censorship was to remain a strong theme in many Forman’s works, the best example being his defence of porn king Larry Flint’s right of free speech in The People vs. Larry Flint. Forman is one of the world’s foremost directors. He’s one of only four living directors to have received two Academy Awards for directing, for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus.
Shirin Neshat was born in Iran in 1957 but now lives and works in New York. She is one of the best-known Iranian artists in the Western world and has worked in film, video-art and photography. Her first major photographic work, Women of Allah (1996), was created to try to deal with the change she experienced. The work - where she covers portraits of women with Persian calligraphy - attracted the attention of the international art-world.
“Any resemblance to real events, to persons living or dead, is not accidental. It is DELIBERATE. “Thus starts the movie Z, and they may well cover the entire filmography of Costa-Gavras, one of cinema’s most political directors. He was born in Greece in the year 1933. Because of his father’s critique of the government, they had to move to France where he entered film school. The politics that originally led him to France has coloured all of his films since and he is very conscious of society’s ills as he is.
Hal Hartley is a well-known filmmaker, born 1959 in Lindenhurst New York, USA. He is an alumnus of the American Academy in Berlin. His most recent film is Fay Grim which received its European premiere at the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival. Hartley has received awards at the Cannes, Tokyo and Sundance film festivals for his films Trust (1991), Henry Fool (1998) and Amateur (1994). He was a visiting lecturer at Harvard University teaching filmmaking from 2001 to 2004.
Aki Karusimäki was born 1957 in Orimattila, Finland. He is a director and is known for his subtle and often dark humour. His films are realistic, bitterly funny and honest. But even in his gloomier work a ray of hope can always be seen shining through the ironic surface. The director is well known for his degrading descriptions of himself in interviews, where he commonly refers to his films as lousy and where he speaks fervently against mainstream cinema.
Hanna Schygulla was born 1943 in Chorzów, Poland and is an actress. Her ability to convey emotional turmoil through restraint by means of reserved expressions and a soothing, almost hypnotizing, is just a single part of her talents. It is this control that also radiates Effi Briest’s intellect, which is both different and far greater than that of the much older and more educated husband – characteristic of many of the relationships between Schygulla and the opposite sex in her roles.
Peter Greenaway was born 1942 in New Port, Great Britain. He trained as a painter and began working as a film editor for the Central Office of Information in 1965. Shortly afterwards he started to make his own films. He has produced a wealth of short and feature-length films, but also paintings, novels and other books. His films are noted for the distinct influence of Renaissance and Baroque painting, and Flemish painting in particular. He has held several one-man shows and curated exhibitions at museums world-wide.
Aleksandr Sokurov was born 1951 in Irkutsk oblast, Russia. He is one of the most important contemporary filmmakers. He worked extensively in television and later graduated from the prestigious film school, VGIK, in 1979. His films often created tensions with the Soviet authorities, but he received great support from such outstanding film masters as Andrei Tarkovsky. Particularly, after the collapse of the regime, Sokurov's films started earning him numerous awards around the world. While most known for his feature films, Sokurov has directed over 20 interesting documentaries.
Atom Egoyan born July 19, 1960 is an Armenian-Canadian film and stage director, screenwriter and producer. He received attention at the Sundance Film Festival for earlier work, then broke through critically and commercially with Exotica (1994). Afterwards, The Sweet Hereafter (1997) led him to receive two Academy Award nominations, and then Chloe (2009) became his biggest moneymaker ever (after the film's DVD/Blu-ray release). His work often explores themes of alienation and isolation, featuring characters whose interactions are mediated through technology, bureaucracy, or other power structures.
Thomas Bangalter was born on January 3, 1975 in Paris, France. He is a musician, record producer, singer, songwriter, DJ, and composer, best known as one half of the former French house music duo Daft Punk, alongside Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo. He has recorded and released music as a member of the trio Stardust, the duo Together, and as a solo artist. Bangalter's work has influenced a wide range of artists in various genres
Abbas Kiarostami was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1940. He graduated from university with a degree in fine arts before starting work as a graphic designer. He then joined the Center for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, where he started a film section, and this started his career as a filmmaker at the age of 30. Since then, he has made many films and has become one of the most important figures in contemporary Iranian.
Guy Maddin was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He produced his first film in 1985, and since then his distinctive style of recreating and renovating silent film conventions and international critical acclaim have made him one of Canada's most celebrated directors. In 2003, Maddin also expanded his career to become an author and an installation artist.
Gunnarsson was born in Iceland, and raised in Vancouver, Canada. His first movie, After The Axe in 1982, got him an Oscar nomination for best documentary short. In 1998, Such a Long Journey (1998) based on Rohinton Mistry's novel was his first fiction film to get international recognition. Gunnarsson has since made two other unique feature films; Rare Birds (2001), and Beowulf & Grendel (2005). Recent documentaries including Gerrie and Louise (1997), and Air India 182 (2008).