Portrait: Hrönn Marinósdóttir Fighting against Conventional Cinema By Angel Comas

in 25th Reykjavik International Film Festival

by Angel Comas Puente

From September 27th up to October 7th is Hrönn Marinósdóttir’s busiest time of the year. She jumps from her office to the Hotel Plaza to meet directors, journalists and stars, always with her cellular to solve the usual problems that arise in all film festivals. She is Reykjavik’s Film Festival director and the festival has many films, many guests and an efficient but reduced team. That’s the reason why Hrönn is always running. She has to put out unexpected fires. But she managed to spare time to speak with us about the past, the present and the future of her festival, a very young one, now in its fourth year and with a promising future.

Hrönn Marinósdóttir had worked as a journalist and covered some international film festivals, but it was in Barcelona where she came to her mind the idea of creating a film festival so that Icelandic people could see films from everywhere, films that usually they could not find in the local theatres, that only showed Hollywood pictures. She says: “You can say that I discovered that cinema could be different in Verdi theatres in Barcelona. I was fascinated with Verdi’s” (Author’s note: since long ago Verdi cinemas, now a multiplex with eight screens, is like a legend in Barcelona, showing art films from everywhere and always in their original version. They have formed a faithful audience that trusts them blindly). “I lived in Barcelona and, with a lady I met, we both created in Reykjavik a sort of Spanish film festival showing about 20 Spanish films”. 101 Reykjavik (by Baltasar Kormákur, 2000), with Victoria Abril, shows Icelandic peoples interest in flamenco and Spanish culture and these Spanish festivals were great successes. “They gave me the strength and the confidence I needed to create our International Film Festival. I worked hard; I spent a lot of time seeking out help — private and official resources — until it became a reality”. One of Hrönn’s main motivations was, according to her own words, that “it was a shame that Icelanders could not see the important cinema that is made all over the world”.

In the moment that her dream became reality, Hrönnn remembered perhaps her teenage years when — she belonged to a family working in the cinema — she could invite his friends to her theaters: “I worked then everywhere, selling tickets, as a porter, at the office, looking for films, helping my family in everything”. Now, she thinks that Icelandic people are very grateful and happy with the festival, discovering this unknown cinema that comes to the city once a year. This year the festival has 80 films. “Of course, they cannot see all the films, but they can choose and, above all, they trust us, like the audience in the Verdi’s”. The festival is financed by the Government and private sponsors and the weight of the audience in that aspect is about 20 percent. She adds, “Last year we sold 70 percent of the seats and this year we have reached 80 percent. We expect that we shall sell 20,000 tickets”.

The main reason to choose films are “a great variety, made by innovative and progressive authors”, adding that “I’m more interested in subjects than in formal aspects. We want good films and that the festival matches with the spirit of Reykjavik, a progressive city in all senses”. Hrönn defines her country as having fifty-fifty influences, both from America and Europe, especially Scandinavia where “we are just in the middle of both continents”. In her opinion there is an increasing interest in Icelandic film in several countries and festivals, “after a flat period”, perhaps because now its films speak not only of past times but young filmmakers expressing their views on present times. She believes in the future of the festival: “It’s bright. The interest is increasing and, as a matter of fact, the festival has become a tourist attraction. There are some people that come to Reykjavik especially for the festival”.

Besides the international competition (New Visions), this year Reykjavik has had other interesting sections: Open Sea (films from everywhere); Documentaries, Human Rights: Iraq, Icelandic Panorama and, of course, Spain in Horizon. There was also a spotlight on David Ondricek; Aki Karuismaki received the Creative Excellency Award and there was a retrospective devoted to Fassbinder, with screenings of some of his films and the presence of Hanna Schygulla.

The mobile phone rings once more and Hrönn has to leave. The festival is on and she has to solve something.