The Reykjavík International Film Festival kicked off Thursday night with an opening ceremony in Reykjavik’s new concert hall Harpan followed by a screening of the festival’s opening film, Solveig Anspach‘s The Queen of Montreuil (check out our review here). The ceremony was well attended with notable Icelandic filmmakers mingling with various foreign ones, including guests of honour Dario Argento, Marjane Satrapi and Susanne Bier.

The host, stand-up comic Ari Eldjárn, was warm and affable and confidently commanded the room, but given the occasion could have spent more time talking about film and less time making fun of other Nordic countries and showing off his accent skills.

Festival director Hrönn Marinósdóttir gave a speech outlining the growth of the festival throughout the years and the goals for this year. It is impressive how the festival has not only managed to keep going through Iceland’s financial hardships, but has grown steadily from year to year. Hrönn and her people have done a great job and should be proud.

Jón Gnarr mayor of Reykjavik dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi at the opening of RIFF 2012

That being said there are certain things that still smack of small town sensibilities. While some of them are charming (The mayor, Jón Gnarr, showing up dressed as Obi Wan Kenobi, cementing his status as Europe’s wackiest mayor, sorry Boris) others can come off as a bit amateurish. Giving every speech twice, once in Icelandic and then again in English seems a bit odd considering that the host spoke English the whole time, and only serves to double the ceremony’s length. Yes we are in Iceland but given that it’s an international festival and that the overwhelming majority of Icelanders speak English couldn’t we just do the whole thing in one language? Also the opening party, which was held in one of Reykjavik’s newest, hippest hotels, was in a space that was way too small for the crowd leading to people having to elbow their way through to get anywhere and the drinks were way too pricey. Are we seriously going to make Dario Argento pay for his drinks?!

But back to the speeches. The French ambassador won the hearts of the Icelanders when he gave half his speech in Icelandic. Film editor Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir gave a passionate speech about the role of women in Icelandic films and the need for them to reflect every aspect of the society, earning her the biggest applause of the night. The aforementioned mayor then officially opened the festival with a personal speech about his experience as a film viewer and VCR investor (after careful consideration he’d decided to invest in the clearly superior V-2000 over it’s competitors Betamax and VHS, leading to him only being able to watch Argento’s Inferno. Which he did. A lot.)

The festival this year is positively bursting with interesting films and documentaries and we recommend you all get yourself to the cinema now, both for your sake and to support this fantastic contribution to Iceland’s cultural environment.

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