The Best of The Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2022

After staging a fully online event in 2021, this year, running from Feb 23rd to March 6th, The Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival (VMDIFF) was back where it belongs: on the big screen! This time around, audiences enjoyed a host of domestic and international feature films, short films,documentaries, premieres and galas in person. And if that wasn’t enough cause for celebration, this year the Festival celebrated its 20th anniversary – hip hip hooray! The festival kicked things off with a bang, screening Colm Bairéad’s much lauded An Cailín Ciúin. The comingof-age drama, which stars newcomer Catherine Clinch, Andrew Bennett and Carrie Crowley, debuted at the Berlinale Film Festival in February, becoming the first Irish Language feature film to feature at Berlinale, and was awarded the Grand Prix of the Generation K plus International Jury for Best Film – an historic achievement. Adding to its accomplishments, An Cailín Ciúin even took home the VMDIFF award for Best Irish Feature along with the Virgin Media Audience Award. The judging panel were full of praise: “Colm Bairéad’s debut feature, An Cailín Ciúin, is a masterful character study that has rightly won international recognition
is putting Irish cinema on the map in a unique and individual way, using our native language to tell stories with sensitivity and cinematic craft that moved us all.”
Róise & Frank, directed by Rachael Moriarty and Peter Murphy and produced by Cúán Mac Conghail of Macalla Teo, was another homegrown production to be recognised on awards night, winning Best Ensemble. Starring Bríd Ní Neachtain, the film follows Róise, who lost the love of her life, partner Frank, two years previously but begins to believe that he may have come back to life when a mysterious dog arrives and seems intent on connecting with her. Both Róise & Frank and An Cailín Ciúin were made under the TG4, Screen Ireland and BAI scheme CINE4 and are due to be released in cinemas later this year. If all that sounds a bit cheesy, then Kate Dolan’s feature debut, You Are Not My Mother, is just the thing for you. Receiving its Irish premiere at the Dublin Festival after its successful debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, You Are Not My Mother thrilled Dublin audiences on the night. The horror stars Hazel Doupe – one of the nation’s best young actors – as a teenager who notices that her mother, returned after some time missing, appears strangely altered. The picture blends Irish folklore and familial dysfunction to winning and terrifying effect. Dolan was one of three directors, alongside Colm Bairéad and Rioghnach Ní Ghrioghair, to have been selected as recipients of the Aer Lingus Discovery Award which aims to champion, support and encourage new and emerging talent from both in front and behind the camera. You Are Not My Mother wasn’t the only Irish horror making a hometown premiere; Conor McMahon, best known for his 2012 feature film Stitches, tickled audiences with his vampire comedy Let the Wrong One In. Hilarity ensues when a young supermarket worker Matt discovers that his older, estranged brother Deco has turned into a vampire. He’s faced with a dilemma: will he risk his own life to help his sibling – after all, blood being thicker than water? Or will he stake him before he spreads the infection further? The film stars upcoming Irish talent Karl Rice and Eoin Duffy along with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Ted Lasso star Anthony Head. Let the Wrong One was released nationwide on April 1st – I couldn’t think of a better way to spend April Fool’s Day. Among the other Irish films screening are: the one-shot Belfast thriller Nightride starring Moe Dunford; the mystery-drama Wolf starring George MacKay and Lily-Rose Depp, telling the story of a boy who believes he’s a wolf trapped in a human body; the world premiere of The Cry of Granuaile; and the documentaries North Circular, Young Plato, The Peculiar Sensation of Pat Ingoldsby and Vicky, a portrait of cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan which scooped the award for Best Irish Documentary. Turning our attention abroad, the festival’s selection of international films was the best in recent memory. Top of that list was Vortex, French provocateur Gaspar Noé’s most intimate film to date. Miles away from the psychedelic trips of Climax and Enter the Void, Noé’s latest directorial effort follows a retired psychiatrist with dementia and a struggling author with a heart condition as they live their final days together in a Paris apartment, I could think of worse places to shuffle off this mortal coil. Last year, Noe’s low-key masterpiece shocked Cannes audiences for its change of pace, and the Dublin Critic Circle (DFCC) were equally enamoured, crowning Vortex the out-andout Best Film of the festival.
Other international highlights were Cannes winners The Worst Person in the World, Murina and Nitram, Venice winner Happening, and Bergman Island starring Tim Roth and Vicky Krieps. Legendary German actor Udo Kier received the Best Actor award for his turn as an ageing hairdresser who embarks on an odyssey across his small town in Todd Stephens’s Swan song. “We felt honoured to watch an irresistible performance from Udo Kier,” said DFCC Chair Tara Brady A fan favourite, VMDIFF’s Surprise Film continued to be one of the most popular events of the festival programme. Until screening, the film’s identity remains a tightly-guarded secret known only to the Festival Director – not even the projectionist knows the film’s title. Highlights from previous years include Another Round (2021) and Get Out (2017), so expectations were high heading into this year’s showing. Predictions ranged from Colin Farrell’s low-key After Yang to Viking extravaganza The Northman directed by horror wunderkind Robert Eggers. In the end, The Outfit, a film about an English tailor who used to craft suits on London’s worldfamous Savile Row, proved a bit of a let down, truth be told. Far from a disappointment, though, was the Irish premiere of The Batman starring Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz and Colin Farrell. Four days before the film’s general release, festival-goers were given a rare opportunity to see easily the most eagerly awaited movie of the year. “We have worked with Warner Bros. for many years and we recognise their support for our festival by adding this film to our line-up,” said Festival Director Gráinne Humphreys. “A huge thank you to Matt Reeves and the Warner Bros. team in Dublin for working with us to allow us to present the film.” A special mention must go to Sean Baker’s Red Rocket: a tale of a charismatic con man and washed-up porn star (Simon Rex, who won a Screen Acting Guild award for his efforts this past March) who returns to his hometown to erase his past and start over – the American dream. Following the worldwide success of Tangerine and Florida Project, Baker shows no sign of slowing down; Red Rocket is a bold and brilliant exploration of toxic masculinity, as well as being the funniest film I’ve seen in a long time. And as if Red Rocket wasn’t racy enough, Dutch maestro Paul Verhoeven’s new film, Benedetta, got everyone hot under the collar when it screened at Dublin’s Lighthouse Cinema. I dont think I’m giving too much away by describing Benedetta as a saucy nun romance featuring sex and satire in equal measure. Unfortunately, Verhoeven wasn’t present to see our faces turn seven shades of red, a sight he would surely relish, but the festival did have plenty of guests lined up for the week, nonetheless. The most notable guest this year was American director Adam Mckay, who was honoured with the prestigious Volta Award for his contribution to film, including the Oscar-winning The Big Short, the everquotable Anchorman and ever-forgettable Don’t Look Up. On receiving the award, McKay said: “I could not be more thrilled to have made it back to Ireland to join Minister Martin and Festival Director Gráinne Humphreys in person. The passion for film and the arts at Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival and here in Ireland never mind the incredible Irish warmth and hospitality is second to none.” Some guests didn’t have to make such a long journey; talent including Carrie Crowley, Moe Dunford, Vicky Phelan and George MacKay alongside filmmaker Neil Brand attended the red carpet. The festival also welcomed actor Alan Cumming along with fellow Scot director Jono McLeod. Their film, My Old School, which recounts one of the strangest and most notorious imposter cases of modern times, closed out the Festival and a marvellous 12 day celebration of Irish and world cinema. And just like that, the 2022 Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival came to an end! Speaking about this year’s festival, Gráinne Humphreys reflected: “there has been an extra special intensity to the audience responses to the screenings in this year’s festival. From the tears flowing after our Opening Night film An Cailín Ciúin to the laughter of our comedy strand to the emotional drain of Gasper Noe’s Vortex to the nerve shredding horrors You Are Not My Mother. It has been a roller coaster!” Too true, a roller coaster we can’t wait to ride again – roll on VMDIFF2023!