JDIFF Helps Shape Dublin’s Cinema Scene

Damien Ryan

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Dublin has a remarkably high film attendance per capita; easily one of the highest in Europe. Yet unfortunately Ireland often falls short when it comes to the silver screen. Luckily, the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival has added some much needed glamour for the capital’s cinema loving public.

Now in its eleventh year, JDIFF kicked off with a gala screening of Cavalry last Thursday. The screening saw the films star Brendan Gleeson walk the red carpet alongside director John Michael McDonagh and Irish stars like Dylan Moran, John Hurt and Aidan Gillen. Gleeson told reporters, “this is fantastic. I missed Sundance because I got ill, which was very disappointing. But I heard it was great in the room, and then I saw it in Berlin.”

He continued, “but coming home to open the Dublin film festival – this is the home film festival – is very, very special. It’s brilliant.” After the screening, the great and good of Irish cinema headed to The Liquor Rooms for the opening night party and a Jameson & Ginger. Only in Ireland is whiskey de rigeur at a film screening.

On Monday, Stanley Tucci was presented the Volta Award for outstanding contribution to the world of cinema. The actor has appeared in major Hollywood hits such as The Devil Wears Prada and The Hunger Games and was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his part in The Lovely Bones. The actor took part in a public Q&A session at the Light House Cinema before he was presented with the award by Love/Hate star Killian Scott.

The Q&A provided a unique insight in to Tucci’s own understanding of his craft; an opportunity that is missed at many other international festivals. “As an actor I think you have to understand the tone of the film and the set,” he stated. Interestingly, he described how he didn’t want to offend with his portrayal of Fashionista Nigel in Devil Wears Prada, and was very cautious and careful about what many may see as a frothy, purely comedic role.

Tucci also spoke about working with Irish film starlet Saoirse Ronan for The Lovely Bones, directed by Peter Jackson. He described how difficult it was to film such sensitive subject matter alongside the young actress, but she helped him feel at ease with the role. “I would often ask Saoirse, ‘are you ok?’, when filming. And every time she would reply, ‘Yeah, how are you Stanley?’”

Also shown at the festival were Cannes darling, Stranger By the Lake, Wes Anderson’s highly anticipated The Grand Budapest Hotel and Only Lovers Left Alive, a thrilling vampiric love story by Jim Jarmusch. Even Ronan Keating is getting in on the action. He will unveil his not-quite-so anticipated debut feature film, Goddess on Saturday, 15 February.

There is a special emphasis on Irish cinema at the festival and  thankfully not just Keating’s work. Amongst those chosen for official selection are Come Into The Gardens (directed by Maud Hendricks), which paints a portrait of life in St Teresa’s Gardens, a flat complex in inner city Dublin and Living In a Coded Land (directed by Pat Collins), which deals with Ireland’s post Celtic Tiger landscape.

As well as showing modern films from home and abroad, JDIFF is screening a host of films by legendary American photographer William Klein as part of their ‘Out of the Past’ selections. The photographer was recently celebrated in a retrospective at London’s Tate Modern and will also attend JDIFF this week. Klein will take part in a rare Q&A session on Thursday after a screening of his ‘60s fashion satire, Who Are You, Polly Magoo?

The 85-year-old photographer is a brave choice for a film festival. Klein is not well known for his cinema work, rather for his shoots for Vogue magazine and his photo essays of cities such as New York, Rome and Paris. It remains to be seen how Klein’s films will stand alongside that of professional filmmakers in such a modern setting as an international film festival.

The Dublin film festival was first started back in the 1980s by film critic Michael Dwyer and producer David McLoughlin. Jameson came on board for a relaunch of the festival in 2003 and has seen it thrive ever since.

International movie stars and directors from Daniel Day Lewis and Charlize Theron to Quentin Tarantino and Neil Gaiman have walked previous JDIFF red carpets and joined in Q&A sessions. Despite these international attendees, the festival has, thankfully, always held Irish film at its core and each year presents an array of locally sourced films; from shorts and features to documentaries and archival films.

In 2008 the festival inaugurated The Irish Talent Spotlight to profile exceptional Irish cinema talent. They also present The Volta Awards to outstanding individuals in the world of film; striking a careful balance between recognising both Irish and international artists. The awards are named after the Volta Picture Theatre, which was established in 1905 by James Joyce as Dublin’s first cinema. Previous recipients include actor Gabriel Byrne, costume designer Consolata Boyle and Thierry Fremaux, the director of the Cannes film festival.

Once again, JDIFF is reaffirming itself as the single most important event in the Irish film calendar, presenting over 120 films to the Irish audience. What JDIFF does particularly well is bring the filmmaking community closer to their attentive Irish audience through Q&A sessions, panel discussions and public interviews. For many of these films, JDIFF will remain their only Irish screening and the festival is proving to be a great help in the promotion of indie cinema, both from Ireland and abroad.

Sure, Cineworld on Parnell Street may lack the glamour of the Palais des Festivals et des Congrés, but both share in the pure unadulterated love of the silver screen. Though it may not rival Cannes or Berlin just yet, the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival has become an important part of Irish cinema and a must for cinophiles from all over the country.

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Damien Ryan