The programme for the 20th Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival has been launched at the Light House Cinema in Smithfield. Attendees celebrated a return to in-person screenings after a successful, if unusual, online event in 2021. Two years ago, the festival managed to complete its screenings just days before lockdown struck.
“I worked on it over Christmas,” Gráinne Humphreys, festival director, said of the decision to return to cinemas. “There were definitely people who thought the online option would be very safe. We’d know what we were getting into.” But she decided that she would “champion the Irish” and have a domestic premiere every night. “Once we did that bit everyone breathed a sigh of release and said: ‘Oh, thank God!’”
Adam McKay, director of the Netflix hit Don't Look Up – and occasional Cavan resident – will receive a Volta award
The festival opens on February 23rd with Colm Bairéad's much anticipated An Cailín Ciúin. Already attracting headlines as the first Irish-language film to play at the imminent Berlin Film Festival, An Cailín Ciúin tells the story of a young girl who learns life lessons when sent to foster parents for the summer. The closing night film on March 6th will be Jono McLeod's My Old School, featuring Alan Cumming as a notorious Scottish academic imposter.
True to her word, Humphreys has sought out a host of tantalising Irish features. Conor McMahon, now a veteran of the Irish horror scene, lures Anthony Head, Buffy the Vampire Slayer alumni, towards his new comedy horror Let the Wrong One In. Kate Dolan's You Are Not My Mother, an urban shocker starring the rising Hazel Doupe, arrives after finishing as runner-up in the Midnight Madness section at the Toronto International Film Festival. The festival director particularly recommends two films from the Arts Council's Reel Art strand: Alan Gilsenan's Ghosts of Baggotonia, and Anna Rodgers and Shaun Dunne's How to Tell a Secret. Dónal Foreman, director of the acclaimed Out of Here, returns with The Cry of Granuaile, the story of an experimental American filmmaker adrift in modern Ireland.
As ever the festival will gather together some of the best international features and will welcome distinguished guests. Adam McKay, director of the Netflix hit Don't Look Up – and occasional Cavan resident – will receive a Volta award, the festival's honour for career achievement.
We have had all the different things you can throw at Dublin but this year was really emotional
Neil Brand, the composer, pianist and writer, will be at the Light House to celebrate music in the films of Laurel and Hardy.
Irish premieres of overseas titles include Sean Baker’s Red Rocket, follow-up to the same director’s The Florida Project; Paul Verhoeven’s controversial Benedetta, relating an affair between two Italian nuns in the 17th century; Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World, contender for best international feature at the upcoming Oscars, and Mia Hansen-Løve prickly drama Bergman Island. As has been the case for some years, the Dublin Film Critics Circle will present awards celebrating the most notable achievements of the event.
Michael Dwyer, this newspaper’s late film correspondent, launched The Dublin International Film Festival – successor to the then recently defunct Dublin Film Festival – in 2003 and ran it successfully until 2008 when Gráinne Humphreys took over as festival director. Seriously hit by the “Beast from the East” snow storm in 2018 and then, like so many other events, constrained by Covid in 2021, it emerges hopefully into its 20th edition. “We have had all the different things you can throw at Dublin,” Humphreys says. “But this year was really emotional.”
The Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival runs from February 23rd until March 6th