It’s not just the films that make RIFF an international film festival. Every year tens of interns and hundreds of volunteers from all across the globe coalesce at the RIFF headquarters in downtown Reykjavík. We stopped into the office to meet the international team that puts everything together.
The air in the office smells sweet, like cookies. People are in groups of three and four, talking, typing. Huge windows along the left side of the building open onto Hlemmur Square, the heart of transit in Reykjavík. That same pulse can be felt inside the RIFF office.
Justine, Anni, Julia, Sarah
At a table set for four Justine, Anni, Julia and Sarah all face computer screens which face each other. They have come from Germany, Finland and Malta as interns.
Between Anni and Justine is a thick magazine folded back on itself. I ask if this is last year’s programme. It’s the catalogue, they say, correcting my terminology. Fair enough. Assembling the catalogue looks more akin to writing a book than churning out the triple-folded “programme” associated with some festivals.
“One of the advantages of having a small office like this is that everyone gets to be involved in everything,” festival director Hrönn Marinósdóttir tells me. “At much bigger festivals interns and staff are stuck in their department, you might have no idea what’s going on with the schedule if you are working on the trailers.”
Justine echoes this notion when I ask what her typical tasks are. “It’s always different,” she says. “Yesterday I was out taking photographs, today I’m working on the text for the catalogue, tomorrow, I don’t know yet.”
I meet Miranda from Australia in the doorway to a nearby room. “I think she’s our first Australian intern,” Hrönn says as she introduces us, “all the way from the other side of the world.”
Miranda graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with an emphasis in film, and immediately started working for the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. She is drawn to working in the performing arts; behind-the-scenes is where she thrives. At RIFF, she has been given the broad umbrella of “marketing” to work under.
Across the hallway from Miranda are two Polish girls sitting at a kitchen table. One of them is working on finding accommodation for international guests flying in for the festival, the other is making a list of films to send to one of the venues. Daria greets me and lets the list she’s making on her screen go black for a moment.
Daria is a psychology and film double major back home at the University of Warsaw, and an aspiring director. She embodies Hrönn’s assertion that everyone working at RIFF is doing it because they are motivated by film, by the medium and the messages it brings. Daria has been working at the office for the past two months, but she flies back to Poland next week, before the festival even begins. True dedication to the cause.
The whole office is splintered into little rooms that open into more little rooms. But even with the walled separation, there is constant movement. The space never feels stale. The excitement of counting down the days is easy to sense. Post-it notes on boards wave their colors; floor-to-ceiling printouts of the festival’s schedule are taped up onto the wall. No one has any one task, but they are all there for the same reason: to open Iceland’s borders to the passionate film community abroad.
The Reykjavík International Film Festival runs from September 29 – October 9.