Onscreen Offscreen: Dublin International Film Festival

The City Screens

The Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival has kicked off with films showing around the city (and nationwide thanks to the online player for some films receiving online premieres in conjunction with physical ones). The schedule this year has been one of the best, featuring big, or rather huge premieres, such as one of the first public screenings in the world of The Batman (Matt Reeves), big-deal directors (Claire Denis, Sean Baker, Gaspar Noé, Paul Verhoeven), hits from other festivals like Sundance with Hive (Blerta Basholli) and Toronto with Irish horror You Are Not My Mother (Kate Dolan), an early premiere of the upcoming TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends, and Oscar nominees with The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier).

Other notable mentions are An Cailín Ciúin (Colm Bairéad), the first Irish-language film to screen at the Berlinale film festival in Berlin that also won the Grand Prix for Best Film, awarded the Generation KPlus international jury, which is a category for films aimed developing younger audiences. The film opened the Dublin festival, but should be on general release in the not-too-distant future.

Let The Wrong One In (Conor McMahon) marks the second year in a row that the festival features an Irish vampire horror-comedy, and long may that tradition continue. This one even sees Anthony Head return to the screen as a vampire hunter, so will be essential viewing for anyone like me who misses Buffy.

Wolf (Nathalie Biancheri) is the follow-up to the stunning Nocturnal (2019), and is a drama about George MacKay’s character, Jacob, who believes he is a wolf. It may sound a little Wild Mountain Thyme (John Patrick Shanley) without the offensive and misguided stereotyping, but with a cast that includes Lily-Rose Depp and Paddy Considine, and the emotional sensitivity of Biancheri’s previous film, this is one of my most anticipated films this year. 

Nightride (Stephen Fingleton) is the director’s first feature since The Survivalist (2015), and is a single-take action thriller starring Moe Dunford who plays a dealer doing one last job before getting out of the game. If you miss it at the festival, it will be on Netflix on March 4. 

The Rules of the Requel 

I wrote about a few new Irish additions to Netflix in my last column, and there’s been another one! This one’s a quirky little Irish movie called Texas Chainsaw Massacre (David Blue Garcia). Yes, you read that right. The film features two Irish stars (Moe Dunford and Olwen Fouéré), and also Elsie Fisher who starred in Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham) that had its Irish début in IMAX at the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival a few years ago. Perhaps that latter Irish link is a little tenuous, as is the cast who play Texans, but without their presence, the film would be lacking.  

What’s the deal with all these horror franchises getting revived? We’ve had a new Scream (and another one coming soon), two new Halloweens (and another one coming soon), and the new chapter in Leatherface’s hero’s journey (with a post-credits scene that suggests they want another one to be coming soon). 

Many have certainly been saying that Texas Chainsaw Massacre is lacking anyway (though I had quite a blast—finding it to mix some of the unprovoked nastiness of the original with the camp madness of the second in its bloody slash at contemporary influencer culture), as did many about Halloween Kills (David Gordon Green). This begs the question, why does Hollywood keep remaking itself? Or rather, why do we keep going to see these products of what some suggest are case studies of Hollywood’s cannibalistic greed? Is it the return of beloved characters, legacy cast, the monster behind the screens of our childhood nightmares? Or is it the potential for greatness and resonance that successful iterations have proved are achievable? 

I don’t think there’s a conclusive reasoning behind our thirst and Hollywood’s regurgitation of what was once original material. I do know, however, that we can expect more of the same, with the odd shining spark of creativity that can light the path to something crisp and new. 

What’s Onscreen

Here Before (Stacey Gregg) is a startling chiller that unnerves with the matter-of-factness of vertigo: your stomach just drops. Gregg’s feature début centres on Laura (Andrea Riseborough) and her increasingly unhealthy obsession with the young girl who moves next door to her. Each frame has the visual elegance of a painting, suggesting patterns that may or not be there that weigh on your mind as they do Laura’s. Do we become just as obsessed with the central mystery that seems to feed off Laura’s grief? Slow in places, but spectacular, and best seen on the big screen.

There was much controversy over the casting, early footage and promotional material for Uncharted from fans of the game franchise, but as a spectator without the educated prejudice of the gamers, I had fun. The story is nonsense, with clunky story beats and writing, but the charm of the cast ultimately overrule any such qualms. It shouldn’t be winning any awards (except perhaps a rusty Golden Globe for Best Musical), but it’s certainly a nice bit of globe-trotting adventure escapism.

As I haven’t seen the film, I can neither confirm nor deny that The Batman (Matt Reeves) stars Batman (with or without Bat-nipples), and Warner Bros.’ lawyers would try to have me dispatched to Arkham Asylum (with or without my own nipples intact) if I were to even attempt such a thing. Anyway, keep an eye on Oxygen.ie for James McCleary’s inevitably thrilling review for the highly anticipated film that’s out on March 4 (with an early preview screening for a lucky few at the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival).

Studio 666 will be a must-watch for any Foo Fighters fans, starring the band as themselves as they record a new album in a haunted house that obviously causes spooky issues for them. I haven’t had a chance to see it yet, and it does sound like one of those B-movie pitches that is an appalling yet incredibly fun watch, but we all need those to fill in a few vacant hours every now and then.

Flee (Jonas Poher Rasmussen) is another Oscar nominee, and is a breathtaking piece of documentary filmmaking about the perils of the asylum-seeking process and the pain and loss of leaving one’s childhood home, their country, and their family behind. Animated to protect the identity of Amin, the film’s subject, Flee visualises what is undocumentable, and explores the toll that such a journey of escape can take on a person. Most profound, however, is the emotional burden that the film allows Amin to offload, the trauma of his experiences that he had hitherto been unable to discuss with anyone, let alone show. 

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