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Full programme announced for Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2020
22 Jan 2020 : News Desk
John Connors, Niamh O’Driscoll, Gráinne Humphreys & Clare Dunne
A host of Irish and international talent including Charlie Kaufman, Niamh Algar, Bill Nighy, Orla Brady, Trine Dyrholm, Barry Keoghan, Pawel Pawlikowski and Imogen Poots, will be in attendance during the 12 day programme of cinema and an opportunity to see the very best of world cinema and film talent in Dublin.

The festival runs from Wednesday 26th February – Sunday, March 8th.

VMDIFF is excited to present an exhilarating and robust slate of new Irish films, a testament to the dynamic vigorous film industry and talent pool here in Ireland. The Virgin Media Opening Night Gala marks the Irish premiere of Lorcan Finnegan’s superb Vivarium starring Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots. The Festival will welcome Imogen Poots, who will be in attendance on the night. This compelling sci-fi suspense thriller centred on a young couple looking for a starter home is steeped in satire on suburbia and parenthood.

Irish talents Barry Keoghan and 2020 BAFTA Rising Star Award nominee Niamh Algar will walk the red carpet for the Virgin Media Gala screening of Calm with Horses, the hugely anticipated feature debut from award-winning short filmmaker Nick Rowland with a screenplay by Joseph Murtagh.

Early reviews have been strong for acclaimed drama Rialto, directed by Peter Mackie Burns and adapted by Mark O’Halloran from his stage play Trade. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor stars as Colm, a man struggling with the death of his destructive father and other personal crises who seeks solace in the arms of a young male prostitute, putting his family life at great risk.

In Broken Law the world premiere feature debut of filmmaker Paddy Slattery, a respected Garda finds his loyalties tested to the absolute limit in this crime thriller starring Cardboard Gangsters cast members John Connors, Tristan Heanue and Graham Earley. 

Actor and filmmaker Tom Sullivan’s Irish language feature debut Arracht is a strong, character-driven thriller set during The Great Hunger, a tumultuous period in Irish history and tells of a fisherman who takes in a stranger on the request of a priest. The Festival will welcome guests for previously announced Irish titles: actors Orla Brady and Ann Skelly for Rose Plays Julie; writer/director Neasa Hardiman and actor Hermione Corfield for Sea Fever and director Phyllida Lloyd and actor/writer Clare Dunne alongside Harriet Walter and Conleth Hill for the Festival Closing Gala Herself.  

Hosting special events with some of the world’s best filmmakers is something VMDIFF is extremely proud of.  As well as a public interview with screenwriter and director Charlie Kaufman will give a unique insight into his creative process, the Festival is delighted to announce acclaimed Polish filmmaker Paweł Pawlikowski (Cold War) for a Director’s Masterclass, and iconic Danish actress Trine Dyrholm for her latest film Queen of Hearts. Both Kaufman and Dyrholm will also receive Voltas, the prestigious festival award presented to celebrate the careers of individuals who have made a significant contribution to the world of film.

Highlighting the importance of diversity in film, the Festival has a strong representation of LGBTQ+ films including Australian Samuel Van Grinsven’s Lynchian-style feature Sequin in a Blue Room, Oliver Hermanus’ critically acclaimed conflict drama Moffie and Jacqueline Audry’s classic tale of a love triangle at a French finishing school, Olivia, amongst just some of the highlights.

A powerful means to challenge and question the status quo, documentary film has always been a strong pillar of the Festival, and this year sees one of the most important documentaries of recent times championed – Mark Cousins’ expansive 14 hour Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema, which 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 filmmakers and trailblazers. Another female trailblazer, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am is an exploration of race, history, America and the human condition, with contributions from Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey, which is sure to be a highlight of the Festival.

Showing that the golden age of music documentaries continues, there are a number of amazing stories told during the Festival: James Erskine’s treasure trove of unseen footage, Billie, presents a lyrical portrait of one of music’s all-time greats, Billie Holiday; part autobiography, Aznavour by Charles, presents a very personal picture of the loved French/Armenian singer, with footage of some of his most famous admirers Edith Piaf and Frank Sinatra; and Alan Moloney’s love letter to the grimy warehouse Windmill Lane that was to become one of Ireland’s most important cultural cornerstones and the home of U2.

Documenting Ireland, we see a number of films that catalogue the Ireland of today, including John Connors’ Endless Sunshine on a Cloudy Day, which explores resilience through the stories of father and daughter Anthony and Jade McCann, who were both diagnosed with cancer within days of each other; Anna Rodgers’ When Women Won goes behind the emotional story of the Together for Yes campaign to repeal the eighth amendment, while Ciara Nic Chormaic’s Skin+Soul world premiere is a cinematic meditation on fashion photography seen through the lens of photographer Perry Ogden, whose profound images blur the boundaries between the fashion world and the real world.

Further afield, we see portraits of 1970s New York in the world premiere of Vyvienne Dick’s New York Our Time; a modern-day New York in Brett Story’s The Hottest August, a testimony of ordinary New Yorkers as they face climate crisis amid political and social chaos; Southern US in the powerful and funny Jawline, about social media influencers; Chile’s 1973 coup d’état in Nanni Moretti’s critically revered Santiago, Italia; Kenya in the bittersweet Kifaru, tale of conservationism and extinction at its very brink, and contemporary Russia in Alina Rudnitskaya’s School of Seduction, where women attend classes to learn how to use their allure to attract wealthy men.

In sport, Street Leagues, featuring contributions from actor Colin Farrell, tells the personal testimonies of the homeless men and women who have found a sense of belonging and purpose in the beautiful game, while Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait presents a biography of the footballing genius.

Festival screenings give viewers the opportunity to really explore film and none more so than when the director is in attendance. The Festival is delighted to welcome Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis) back to Dublin with her latest feature Radioactive - based on the graphic novel about Marie Curie, which focuses on her relationship with fellow scientist Pierre Curie and their ambition to develop radium and change the face of medicine.  Also coming to Dublin will be acclaimed Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig, who will be joined by actor Bill Nighy at the screening of her modern fable, The Kindness of Strangers, set over one tough winter in New York.

Other directors taking part in post-screening Q&As include Kleber Mendonca Filho with his Cannes Jury Prize winner, genre-busting Brazilian futuristic thriller Bacarau; Filippo Meneghetti with Two of Us about two retirement-age women living in the same apartment building who have been keeping a huge secret - they are passionately in love; Tiago  Guedes with his sweeping Portuguese political and social drama The Domain; Bartosz Kruhlik with ‘real-time’ Polish drama Supernova; Rose Glass with award-winning psychological horror of trauma and control Saint Maud, and Elfar Adalsteins with End of a Sentence, starring John Hawkes and Sarah Bolger, which follows a young ex-con and his father as they go on a road trip to scatter the ashes of their mother and wife.

Delving into Chinese cinema, the Festival programme shows a wonderful and diverse selection of films that cast a light onto the Chinese society past and present:

Yang Lina’s historical drama Spring Tide explores three generations of women from the same family.  Xiaoming Chen’s thriller If You Are Happy explores how far parents will go to ensure their children get a good education.  The funny and warm feminist drama Send Me To The Clouds looks at the social and economic pressures felt by China’s “leftover women” — those older than 26 and unmarried, and the charming Tibetan language Balloon tells the story of two young boys from a shepherding family who discover balloons in their family home until it emerges they are condoms. The Festival will also screen a number of stunning and insightful Chinese documentaries, including Zhang Yang’s sumptuous The Sound of Dali, a film about the rhythm of nature through the sights, sounds and senses of Dali, and the beautifully observed Confucian Dream, which explores the universal truths about relationships through a mother who converts to Confucianism to try and do the best for her family.

The expansive world cinema programme features 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 starring Trine Dyrholm - a family tale that delivers more than its share of gut-wrenching moments; Cannes’ Un Certain Regard winner, Karim immersive Brazilian feminist drama The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão; Roy Andersson’s About Endlessness a series of beautiful vignettes which opens with the sight of a couple floating over the German city of Cologne; winner of Tribeca’s Nora Ephron Award Initials S.G., the pitch-black comedy about a Serge Gainsbourg cover singer set against Argentina’s quest to win the World Cup; and Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear winner Synonymns which tells the story of an Israeli man who travels to Paris to flee his nationality.

From established names to exciting new voices, French cinema is well represented throughout the festival: Ladj Ly’s impressive Oscar-nominated debut feature Les Misérables, inspired by the Paris riots of 2005; Vincent Cassel shines in Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano’s The Specials, based on the true story of Stephane Benhamou who runs a shelter for autistic teens and young adults in Paris; Jean Dujardin gives an inspired performance as a man with an unhealthy fashion obsession in the surprising and offbeat black comedy Deerskin; Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche star in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s The Truth marking his first film outside of his native Japan.

The Surprise Film continues to be one of the most popular events in the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival programme but, as always, its identity remains a tightly-guarded secret known only to the Festival Director.

The Empire Film Podcast Live, the official podcast of Empire, the world’s biggest and best movie magazine. The Festival will welcome Chris Hewitt and his pod team to Dublin for an afternoon of film-related fun and chat with special guests on Friday 6th March.

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 view – be entertained, engaged, included. We're delighted to be working with Virgin Media in year two as the festival’s title sponsor.”

Niamh O’Driscoll, Head of Brand and Marketing at Virgin Media said:

“Marking the start of a new decade, the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival has shot the lights out with this year’s programme which is going to be a truly immersive and delightful experience for everyone who loves this powerful medium. We're proud of the diversity of this year's line-up; emboldening broader, more inclusive independent voices and full of incredible stories that provoke thought, drive empathy and allow the audience to connect. Our support underlines our commitment to foster creativity in film production and television content as Ireland’s leading connected entertainment provider and commercial broadcasting company.”




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