Celebrated Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami (director of "Taste of Cherry" and writer of "Crimson Gold") received the recognition of a nation Monday in Iceland. The President of the North Atlantic island nation, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson presented the director with a lifetime achievement award as part of the second annual Reykjavik International Film Festival, which opened last Wednesday with Danish director Anders Thomas Jensen's "Adam's Apple," this year's submission from Denmark for foreign-language Oscar consideration. Kiarostami is in Reykjavik for the fest, opening an exhibit of his still photographs entitled "The Roads", at a gallery housing the capital's electrical concern. He is also presenting a short that he made of the same title, spotlighting rural roads in his native Iran. Additionally, Kiarostami taught a master class at a local university, and although normally somewhat reclusive, he has been very active taking part in numerous events.
For its second year, 50 films are on the lineup here, and have packed screenings nightly, with Kiarostami seemingly adopted as a sort of local celeb. "I am very honored to receive this award, and I will always [remember] the Reykjavik festival," Kiarostami said after taking the statuette from the President of Iceland, (a mostly ceremonial post). In his opening speech, President Grimsson noted that Iceland has a history of celebrating creativity and the creative community. "In Iceland, we do not have statues of presidents, but instead, we have statues of poets." He also boasted that Iceland's unique geography has been an inspiration for artists of all types for decades and hoped the new festival will draw filmmakers to the country.
Reykjavik clearly has an ambition to carve itself a niche on the festival circuit. During the ceremony, the head of a large Icelandic bank, a fest sponsor, promised to help the event become "one of the most important European film festivals." The fest, founded by former Icleandair flight attendant Hronn Marinosdottir, distributed pamphlets to foreign guests promoting Iceland to filmmakers. Additionally, the fest recruited veteran festival programmer Dimitri Eipides of the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival (where he is an international programmer) to organize its New Visions program, focusing on content from around the world. The Reykjavik International Film Festival continues through Sunday.
[EDITORS NOTE: This story was modified to clarify Kiarostami's directing and writing credits. He has directed "Ten," "ABC Africa," and "Taste of Cherry", among many other films, and his writing credits include "Crimson Gold," which was directed by Jafar Panahi.]