'Twilight Portrait,' 'Volcano' Honored at Reykjavik International Film Festival

The RIFF Audience Award went to Aki Kaurismaki's "Le Havre," Finland's entry to the field of possible foreign-language film Oscar nominees, as the festival reached an attendance record.

REYKJAVIK, Iceland -- Russian director Angelina Nikonova's film Twilight Portrait and Iceland's hope for the foreign-language Oscar race, Volcano, by Runar Runarsson, won key awards at the eighth Reykjavik International Film Festival on Saturday night.

The festival jury, led by Danish actor Ulrich Thomsen, picked the Russian film out of a field of 12 features from first- and second-time filmmakers and honored it with the Golden Puffin Discovery Award.

The winning film tells a story of revenge between a social worker and a militia man against the  backdrop of today's Russia ridden with social conflict.

Special jury mentions in the main competition went to Italian director Andrea Segre’s Shun Li and the Poet, which deals with the issue of immigration, and Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s Oslo, 31. August.

Family drama Volcano, which explores questions of aging with dignity, was honored with the International Critics' Award and the Church of Iceland award.

The RIFF Audience Award for the festival's most popular film went to Finnish directing legend Aki Kaurismaki for Le Havre, his country's entry to the field of possible foreign-language film Oscar nominees. The film is about a young African illegal immigrant who passes through the port city on his way to London.
 
The RIFF Environmental Award went to Irish director’s Risteard O Domhnaill’s The Pipe about a small Irish community divided by the prospect of an oil pipeline and its expected economic gains.

Borkur Sigthorsson’s Skadi (Come To Harm) won the new RIFF honor for the best Icelandic short film.

Festival director Hronn Marinosdottir told The Hollywood Reporter that ticketed attendance at this year's festival, set in the capital of the Northern European island nation, is expected to reach a new high of close to 27,000, compared with around 24,000 last year. Iceland only has a population of around 320,000.

"The festival has had the best turnout ever," the festival director said. "About 8 percent of the country's population is attending. We had many sold-out screenings. This started as an audience fest, so that's what it was it all about."

The focus would continue to be on "young films and up and coming directors," as well as documentaries that make people discuss societal issues, she emphasized. "Reykjavik will never be Cannes," the festival director said. "We have our own focus that is in line with the cultural strategy of Reykjavik, which focuses on being on the cutting edge."

The Golden Puffin statue is an expression of how RIFF is different. "Other festivals also often use animals in their awards, but the puffin is a funny and strange [seabird], and when we started, we wanted something different and humorous," explained Marinosdottir.

Beyond the awards ceremony on Saturday night, the 2011 edition of the Reykjavik festival also honored Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr with a lifetime achievement award earlier in the week. Its Creative Excellence Award -- Women in Cinema lauded up-and-coming Danish director Lone Scherfig. RIFF also featured a James Marsh retrospective and honored Romanian filmmaker Adrian Sitaru as an emerging master.

RIFF wraps up on Sunday. Next year's ninth edition of the festival will take place Sept. 27-Oct. 7.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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