Making the Case for Independent Cinema

Libby Marchant guides us through the events of the Dublin International Film Festival, which will run until March 4

If you told me a year ago that I would be singing the praises of obscure art-house films, I wouldn’t have believed you. C’mon, who wants to watch a girl cry in a bathtub for an hour and a half? At least that was the perception I had of independent cinema: a bunch of boring, pretentious movies that you basically needed a Ph.D. in the director’s life in order to understand. And whilst there are some independent movies where I can rest my case (I’m looking at you Parallel Mothers), there are others that have genuinely changed my life, not to mention they’re just prettier. I’m thinking of Frances Ha directed by Noah Baumbach and Titane directed by Julia Ducournau — both pretentious, of course — but also funny and brilliantly acted. Just because something is rather pretentious doesn’t mean it can’t be funny. In fact, many of my most pretentious friends are also the ones that can laugh at themselves the most freely.

“All of the movies are shown in the Lighthouse Cinema, which is worth going to even just to experience such an epic space.”

If you’re new to the independent movie scene, I would highly recommend you start with the Dublin International Film Festival (DIFF). All of the movies are shown in the Lighthouse Cinema, which is worth going to even just to experience such an epic space. If you don’t fancy making the trek to the cinema, DIFF has introduced a really cool element whereby you can stream many of the films and events online in real-time. So really, there are no excuses! With over ninety events happening throughout the festival, I’ve picked out a few that I’m most excited about:

The opening night gala will show the film God’s Creatures starring Paul Mescal, who has recently expressed his preference for working on independent films. The screening will take place in the Lighthouse. Unfortunately, tickets have sold out, but the film can be streamed online.

There will be a panel featuring screenwriter and cognitive scientist Tiernan Williams, traveller actor, screenwriter, documentary film-maker and playwright John Connors (best known for his role as Patrick Ward in Love/Hate), and Ailbhe Keenan (who wrote the Bad Sisters television series), among other fantastic industry heads. Tickets are a fiver.

A conversation with Neil Gaiman, who will talk about the films that have most inspired his work. This event can be streamed online at any time during the festival.

A screening of LOLA, Andrew Legge’s historical sci-fi feature debut.

A screening of Kanaval: A People’s History of Haiti in Six Chapters, directed by Eddie Hutton Mills and Leah Gordon. The pair have created an “engrossing documentary (that) charts centuries of Haitian history through the lens of carnival celebrations. The country has witnessed unspeakable atrocities but carnival serves not only as a reminder of the past, but also as a radical act of oral storytelling and collective solidarity in the face of oppression.” (DIFF website)

Some of the film choices are rather questionable, such as Smoking Causes Coughing, sponsored by the French Government: “After a devastating battle against a diabolical turtle, a team of five avengers, known as the Tobacco Force, is sent on a mandatory retreat to strengthen their decaying group cohesion. Their sojourn goes wonderfully well until Lézardin, Emperor of Evil, decides to annihilate planet Earth.” (DIFF)

Also funded by the French government is Mother and Son, directed by Léonor Serraille. It looks amazing, but I would recommend bringing tissues!

The festival also features documentaries such as BlackBerry, directed by Matt Johnson, which follows the rise and fall of BlackBerry cellphones. For a Generation Z-er like myself, it will be interesting to find out what a BlackBerry even is.

On a more serious note, My Imaginary Country, directed by Patricio Guzmán, is another fantastic documentary being shown at the festival: “This documentary explores the protests that exploded onto the streets of Chile’s capital of Santiago in 2019 as the population demanded more democracy and social equality around education, healthcare and job opportunities.” (DIFF)

“An aspect of DIFF which is unique is its engagement with the community.”

An aspect of DIFF which is unique is its engagement with the community. The festival will arrange cinema experiences for those in care homes and will run educational programmes for young people and old people alike. The goal of these programs is to promote intergenerational learning. At a time when the spirit of Dublin is constantly threatened by rising rent and pint prices, it’s heart-warming to see the intersection of art and human connection alive and well.

Additionally, DIFF ran a Screen8 programme which engaged with older members of the Dublin 8 community. Laura O’Shea, an Oscar and BAFTA-qualifying director, writer, and actor will lead this year’s programme. For further information about Screen8 and to get involved, contact [email protected].

Heart of Dublin is a short documentary made by the 2022/3 Screen8 Participants. Through interviews, visuals and music, the group tell us about what they love, hate and wish for the Dublin 8 area. All footage and music included in the documentary was devised, filmed and performed by the class.

They also run a Young Film Critics initiative which aims to create an informal education space for young people to engage with international and independent cinema. The Young Film Critics will workshop with Screen Daily’s chief critic and reviews editor Finn Halligan, and “will watch a series of films from our programme and learn the skills needed to review and critique them in a professional manner”. (DIFF)

The festival finishes with 406 Days, a documentary about the Debenhams workers’ strike, the longest-ever Irish industrial dispute. The film is directed by Joe Lee and will be shown in the Lighthouse.

Many of the films I have mentioned will only be playing in cinemas, in Ireland, during the festival. I would recommend everyone take this amazing opportunity to see some fantastic, innovative films that sadly aren’t as heavily funded as Marvel films, despite the passion and dedication put into making them, which many mainstream films lack.