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The Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival (DIFF) returns from March 3 – 14, moving online for the first time due to Covid-19. While the cinema setting will be missed, on the positive side, cinephiles can have the best of current international and Irish film beamed into their homes.
As with previous years, the festival boasts a jam-packed line up. On top of hosting conversations with the likes of Colin Farrell and Steve McQueen and a retrospective on movies made by black female filmmakers, the event will screen the Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci starring drama Supernova, the highly-anticipated historical romance Ammonite featuring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan and Oscar favourite Minari.
However, there’s many more terrific sounding films to be discovered in the vast programme. Below HeadStuff chose 15 movies in the DIFF line up we are excited to see.
Selected as Greece’s entry for Best International Feature Film at the Oscars, when the city of Athens is struck by a mysterious pandemic which causes amnesia, one man who is impacted sets out to create a new identity for himself through a state-sponsored programme. Tagged as being part of the dramatic, darkly comic and surreal “Greek weird wave” which spawned Yorgos Lanthimos, the movie is the feature debut of Christos Nikou who worked as assistant director on the acclaimed Dogtooth.
Beasts Clawing at Straws
After a Louis Vuitton bag full of money is discovered, a succession of lowlifes, double-crossers, criminals and dealers come undone through greed as they try to outsmart each other for the cash. This South Korean thriller is notable for starring Jeon Do-yeon, who played the lead role in the incredible Secret Sunshine.
Be Good or Be Gone
In this Irish drama-thriller, two petty criminal cousins receive a temporary release from Mountjoy Prison. While they want to go clean, they find themselves dragged into a series of criminal schemes. Ace performances from writer and star Les Martin and his co-lead Declan Mills, a tight script layered with dark comedy and some surprising tonal shifts make this well worth seeking out.
Boys from County Hell
Set in the allegedly haunted town of Six Mile Hill, connected to Bram Stoker, a group of friends like little more than daytime pints and terrifying tourists with vampire tales. But when workmen disturb an ancient plot, the stage is set for a bloody gore-fest. This Irish comedy-horror is the sophomore effort from director Chris Baugh, who made the acclaimed Bad Day for the Cut.
Stylists in a hair salon in working-class Dublin become accidental vigilantes and community heroes as they take on the gang members and gentrifiers threatening their community. A new comedy set in the capital is long overdue, particularly one focusing on a group of women.
Dinner in America
A Sundance hit, coming-of-age comedy Dinner in America tells the story of a punk rocker and his young superfan whose paths cross, leading to a wild journey across the fading suburbs of the US.
I Never Cry
After teenager Ola hears of the sudden death of her father, a Polish man working as a builder in Ireland, she must travel to repatriate his body. But their relationship was complicated and in death Ola may finally get to know more about her dad’s life in this account of the economic migrant experience.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s Noémie Merlant stars as a shy young woman who falls in love with an amusement-park ride in writer-director Zoé Wittock’s unique and erotic movie debut.
In this comedy-drama longlisted for Outstanding British Film and Outstanding Debut at the 2021 BAFTA Film Awards, four asylum seekers await word of their futures while staying on a distant Scottish island. Waiting to hear of their fate, they endeavour to embrace the very different people, climate and culture which represents their new home.
Described as “Parasite meets Takashi Miike“, this dystopian thriller focuses on a lavish upper-class wedding in Mexico that goes awry when an unexpected uprising gives way to a violent coup. As seen through the eyes of the sympathetic young bride and the servants who work for, and against, her wealthy family, the film traces the collapse of one political system as it is replaced by another.
Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time
Hungary’s entry for Best International Feature Film at this year’s Oscars, this noirish melodrama centres on a surgeon who encounters her soulmate at a medical conference. But when she confronts him weeks later after being stood up, he’s adamant that he has never met her. Lead Natasa Stork was recently selected as one of 10 European Shooting Stars of 2021, an initiative honouring up-and-coming actors.
Irish filmmaker Ivan Kavanagh (Never Grow Old, The Canal) returns to horror for his latest. A mother who escaped a cult as a child must face her past when cult members return and attempt to kidnap her son David. On the run from the sinister sect, they are helped by a detective – but since the attempted abduction, something has changed in David. Emile Hirsch plays one of the leads.
There is No Evil
Winner of Berlin’s Golden Bear award for Best Film, There is No Evil revolves around four different cases involving the death penalty in Iran. It focuses on the soldiers tasked with carrying out executions demanded by the state, and the profound impact this has on their life and their family’s lives.
Welcome II the Terrordome
Ngozi Onwurah’s 1995 thriller became the first feature directed by a black woman to be theatrically distributed in UK cinemas. It centres on a dystopia called the Terrordome, where black people live, amid racial tensions which are running high following the dramatic death of a young boy. DIFF’s festival notes say that over 25 years later the film about a mother seeking retribution remains angry and uncompromising.
The latest entry in the Chinese wuxia sub-genre of action films, the plot synopsis for Wild Swords reads: “Li Yunbo’s gritty action thriller focuses on a mysterious thief that seems to be connected to a bloody battle that still resonates. The Nameless and Tang-Man sects duelled bitterly through the ages – until a violent swordsman named Chang ended their feud in massacre and vanished without a trace. An ambiguous new swordsman aims to discover the fates of Chang and his victims.”
Also worth seeking out: Fidelity, Kubrick by Kubrick, Lapsis, Shorta, Undine and the festival’s surprise film.