‘Daring’ Romanian satire, Brendan Gleeson’s pub farewell and a perfect McGahern adaptation at Dublin International Film Festival

Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World scoops best film award while That They May Face The Rising Sun is named best Irish film as the festival concludes


To the Light House cinema for the annual Dublin Film Critics Circle (DFCC) awards, presented in association with Limelight Communications, at the Dublin International Film Festival (DIFF).

Winner of best film was Radu Jude’s vast antic satire Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World. Following its world premiere at Locarno last August, the Romanian film has gathered a cultish following among the world’s critics. “Daring, smart, and angry – featuring a standout performance by Ilinca Manolache – this might be my own favourite film in the festival,” Tara Brady, president of the DFCC, remarked.

Best Irish film was Pat Collins’s take on John McGahern’s That They May Face the Rising Sun.

The Michael Dwyer Discovery Award, named for The Irish Times’s late film correspondent, went the way of Pavia Sidhu and Yugam Sood, stars of Tarsem Singh Dhandwar’s touching drama Dear Jassi. The Maverick Award, named for late DFCC member George Byrne, was awarded to the veteran Canadian innovator Guy Maddin. Affection for Dutch animation Oink, concerning an adorable pig, saw it awarded its own special jury prize. Quite right too.

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The DFCC Awards at the 2024 Dublin International Film Festival

Best Film: Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World

Best Director: Victor Erice for Close Your Eyes

Best Score: Ryuichi Sakamoto for Monster

Best Cinematography: Lílis Soares for Mami Wata

Best Screenplay: İlker Çatak for The Teachers’ Lounge

Best First Feature: Orlando, My Political Biography

Best Editing: Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Azusa Yamazaki for Evil Does Not Exist

Special Jury Prize: Oink

Best Documentary: Made in England: The Films of Powell and Pressburger

Best Actor: Ayoub Elaid and Abdellatif Masstouri for Hounds

Best Actress: Eka Chavleishvili for Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry

George Byrne Maverick: Guy Maddin

Michael Dwyer Discovery: Pavia Sidhu and Yugam Sood for Dear Jassi

Best Irish Film: That They May Face The Rising Sun

Best Ensemble: Green Border

Irish film at DIFF

The array of new Irish films at this year’s Dublin International Film Festival showed the art in all its variety. Marian Quinn’s Twig, which opened the festival, showcased some fine young actors – notably lead Sade Malone – in an ambitious attempt to transfer Antigone to gangland Dublin.

We got two very different sports films that bravely decided to show us little sport. Danny McCafferty’s compassionate The Line concerned a young Ukrainian refugee who, after some resistance, gets absorbed into a rural GAA team. Maurice O’Carroll’s busy Swing Bout, utilising long takes and hectoring performances, dealt with hustlers, hangers-on and fighters in the build-up to a boxing bout. The former was warm. The latter pumped the blood.

Two sets of established talents returned to take contrasting angles on the Troubles. Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor’s Baltimore, starring a properly abrasive Imogen Poots as Rose Dugdale, the upper-crust Englishwoman who became a high-profile IRA volunteer, again showed the team, who have long operated as Desperate Optimists, blending oblique drama with a gallery aesthetic.

Alan Gilsenan’s fascinating The Irish Question, an attempt to prepare the island for a discussion on unification, paired starry talking heads – Bill Clinton, Gerry Adams, John Major, many more – with rich archival footage to, as I’m sure was the intent, ask more questions than were answered. Fintan O’Toole was convincingly wry on the lack of consideration many in the Republic have given to potential compromises.

Tadhg O’Sullivan, director of the fine experimental features The Great Wall and To The Moon, was back with a beautiful, sad, memory piece titled The Swallow. Brenda Fricker, accompanied by the right sort of shaggy dog, makes the most of her crunchy voice in a film that relishes rich autumnal colours, both inside and out. The elegance of the camera moves paid a great actor proper respect.

Colin Hickey’s Perennial Light, a monochrome poem much filmed from great heights, made a virtue of its own obscurity as it outlined the legacy of barely grasped tragedy. In marked contrast, Dermot Malone’s tough, angry King Frankie tackled the pressures of male disappointment head on. Peter Coonan’s Frank, now a taxi driver, faces up to earlier compromises – in a late echo of Tiger Ireland – as he suffers through his father’s removal. The film seems faintly appalled with what we have become (or recently were).

It was great to see some high-end macabre science fiction in Alan Friel’s properly unsettling Woken. A pregnant woman wakes on a remote island in the North Sea to find she can remember nothing. Peter McDonald is on top form as a near-variation on something from Witchfinder General, while the always riveting Maxine Peake adds her own school of unease. Friel’s debut feature, shot in the Burren, takes the audience somewhere unexpected. Keep an eye out.

As ever, DIFF served up a strong array of documentaries. Tanya Doyle’s Eat/Sleep/Cheer/Repeat told us all you weren’t aware you needed to know about the Irish cheerleading community. A spirited gang from the west of Ireland faces up the pressures of late pandemic as they plan for the world championship. Good characters, real dilemmas – hey, call it just “cheer”, you know?

Susan Thomson’s The Swimming Diaries processes the death of the filmmaker’s mother via the 25,000 metres Thomson swam in those final weeks. Allowing in gentle comedy, it ingeniously conjures up a life through experimental restaging and home movies. There were unavoidable connections with Ross Killeen’s raw Don’t Forget to Remember. Killeen, who made the excellent Damien Dempsey doc Love Yourself Today, works with the visual artist known as Asbestos to tease out the loss and tension that comes when a parent falls to Alzheimer’s. It’s a properly sad film, again making strong use of home movies, that finds a poignant place for this newspaper’s daily Simplex crossword.

Three DIFF films to watch: That They May Face the Rising Sun, Brendan Gleeson’s Farewell to Hughes’s and Made in England: The Films of Powell and Pressburger

That They May Face the Rising Sun
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Director: Pat Collins
Cert: None
Starring: Barry Ward, Anna Bederke, Lalor Roddy, Sean McGinley
Running Time: 1 hr 51 mins

Pat Collins, among the best documentarians of his age, brings some of his already explored taste for rural processes – here beekeeping, shed building – to this perfectly pitched adaptation of John McGahern’s final novel. The unhurried Barry Ward plays an Irish writer who, with his European wife, has moved home to the country and to a circling herd of eccentrics, wiseacres and busybodies. Not a great deal happens as the film, shot in the richest shades by Richard Kendrick, offers its paean to the art of listening, to the pleasures of contemplation. The supporting cast are strong, but Lalor Roddy stands out as the most abrasive of his old pals. There is a pondering of the different ways the returning hero and the tethered local process all this beauty. Does the land yield differently beneath a foot that has chosen to tread upon it? Fans of the humanist films of Yasujirō Ozu will wonder at his surname turning up on the protagonist’s numberplate. A coincidence?

Brendan Gleeson’s Farewell to Hughes’s
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Director: Ciarán Ó Maonaigh
Cert: None
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Barry Gleeson, Sean McGinley
Running Time: 1 hr mins

Receiving a limited release following its premiere at DIFF, this engaging 60-minute documentary finds Brendan Gleeson paying tribute to Hughes’s pub, at the back of Four Courts, as it faces up to closure. Joined by fellow actor Sean McGinley and a host of traditional musicians, our host reminds us of the vanishing demography that, until quite recently, used to define Dublin pubs. Hughes’s was an “early house” – opening at 6:30am for those working at the markets – that later became one of the most celebrated venues for impromptu traditional music. It was, a contributor notes, one of the few places where music was “respected and understood”. Joshing amusingly with his brother Barry, a respected traditional singer, Gleeson could hardly be a more persuasive and sincere guide. Even an actor of his gifts could not fake the enjoyment he receives from the tall tales and nostalgic revels. This Dublin is not extinct – the nearby Cobblestone pub still throbs to the bodhrán – but it may be on the endangered list.

Made in England: The Films of Powell and Pressburger
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Director: David Hinton
Cert: None
Starring: Martin Scorsese
Running Time: 2 hrs 9 mins

For the last 20 years or so, Martin Scorsese has been threatening to follow-up his epic documentaries on American and Italian cinema with one on British film. We have finally ended up with the next best thing – a predictably essential film on the movies of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Those who enjoyed the great man’s A Personal Journey and My Voyage to Italy will know the form. Facing the camera, with passion and warmth, he talks us through his affection for classics such as A Matter of Life and Death and The Red Shoes. We see beautifully restored clips. But we also see the shabby versions that won Marty over on TV during the 1950s. We learn how our current guide rediscovered a forgotten Powell and introduced him to his future wife, Scorsese’s editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and how Powell and Pressburger enjoyed delayed canonisation. Do not miss when it arrives to cinemas in May.