2020 Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival

Calm with Horses
Picture courtesy of VMDIFF.

By David Prendeville

The 2020 Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival runs from February 26th to March 8th in various venues across the capital.

The festival will play host to numerous Irish and international premieres. It opens with a gala screening of Lorcan Finnegan’s science-fiction horror Vivarium, which screened at Cannes last year. One of the film’s stars, British actress, Imogen Poots, will be in attendance at the screening.. 

Another Irish feature to watch out for is Neasa Hardiman’s Sea Fever, a horror set on a West of Ireland trawler, starring Connie Nelson and Dougray Scott.

The festival will play host to the  world premiere of Paddy Slattery’s debut, crime-drama, Broken Law. Also, coming off strong reviews at Venice, will be the first Irish screening of Rialto, starring Tom Vaughn Lawlor.

Other notable Irish films set to premiere are Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy’s Rose Plays Julie and Tom Murphy’s famine-set, Irish language thriller Arract.

Local company Element Pictures is well represented with the Irish premieres of two films. First up is Calm with Horses, a gritty crime drama, whose stars Barry Keoghan and Niamh Algar will be in attendance.

The festival closes with a gala screening of Phyllida Lloyd’s drama Herself, which recently had its world premiere at Sundance, where it received strong reviews.

The festival, as usual, also plays host to a huge variety of Irish and international short film programmes. These include a programme of the latest Screen Ireland shorts. There will also be a screening of the winner of the 2019 Virgin Media Discovers award, Innocent Boy, plus many, many more films from both new and established talent. 

This year’s event looks to be a particularly star-studded affair. One of the undoubted highlights of the festival will be a masterclass with esteemed screenwriter and director Charlie Kaufman on March 4th. The man behind such films as Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Synecdoche, New York will be discussing his craft with Irish screenwriter Mark O’Halloran (Adam and Paul, Garage).

Kaufman will also be the recipient of a Volta award. Also receiving a Volta award will be Danish actress Trine Dyrholm, star of, amongst many other things, Thomas Vinterberg’s classic Festen. 

The festival also welcomes Ida and Cold War director Paweł Pawlikowski, who will give a Director’s Mastclass. In terms of other Network events there will also be Creative Europe Case Study – a practical workshop on the possibilities of co-productions and leading film makers through the entire process from start to successful festival launch and release.

Some other esteemed guests set to be in attendance at screenings throughout the festival include Persepolis director Marjane Satrapi and Brazilain director Kleber Mendonca Filho (Aquarius). 

As always, there is a strong line-up of documentaries on show at this year’s festival. Mark Cousins’s hugely-anticipated, expansive 14-hour Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema, will be shown over five separate screenings, to be viewed together or as standalone films.

Featuring the voices of Tilda Swinton, Jane Fonda and Thandie Newton, amongst others, the documentary shows the oft-untold history of women film makers and trailblazers.

Other documentary highlights to look out for include Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, the world premiere of Vyvienne Dick’s New York Our Time, John Connors’s Endless Sunshine on a Cloudy Day and sporting documentary Street Leagues, featuring Colin Farrell. A documentary which may also be of specific local interest is Alan Moloney’s love letter to the grimy warehouse Windmill Lane that was to become one of Ireland’s most important cultural cornerstones and which is of course now based in Ringsend. 

There is an expansive world cinema programme featuring an eclectic selection of internationally acclaimed films and award winners. These include the prestigious Audience Award winner at Sundance, May el-Toukhy’s erotic thriller Queen of Hearts which stars Trine Dyrholm, Cannes’s Un Certain Regard winner The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão; the new film by Swedish auteur Roy Andersson About Endlessness and Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear winner Synonymns.

Delving into Chinese cinema, the Festival programme shows a wonderfully diverse selection of films that cast a light onto the Chinese society past and present. Highlights here include: Yang Lina’s historical drama Spring Tide, Xiaoming Chen’s thriller If You Are Happy and Zhang Yang’s The Sound of Dali.

French cinema is also well represented at the festival with such films Ladj Ly’s Oscar-nominated debut feature Les Misérables and Quentin Dupieux’s black comedy Deerskin. French icons Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche also star in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s The Truth, marking that revered director’s first film outside of his native Japan.

There is also an extensive programme of films for the whole family in the Fantastic Flix strand, highlights of which include a presentation of Charlie Chaplin shorts and a dog-friendly screening of Marona’s Fantastic Tale.

Other notable highlights of the festival include The Surprise Film on Sunday March 1st, which continues to be one of the most popular events in the festival programme. A new addition to the festival this year is The Empire Film Podcast Live, the official podcast of Empire magazine, on Friday March 6th. 

Speaking about the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2019 programme, Gráinne Humphreys, Festival Director said:  “This year we have a stellar line-up of World and Irish cinema accompanied by some of the most dazzling international and homegrown film talents. We invite our audiences, known for their love of film, to dive right in for the next 12 days and nights and discover different cultures, stories, worlds, points of views – be entertained, engaged, included.“ 

The festival runs from February 26th to March 8th. Tickets can be bought at https://www.diff.ie/