By Colette Fitzpatrick
While I obviously miss my friends (in the year since all of our lives have changed I have seen precisely one friend once for any extended period of time – outdoors in the freezing cold, masked up, and two meters apart), not being terrified of people, some sense of normality, and all of those more serious concerns, one of the pre-COVID things that I miss the most is going to the cinema. I miss excitedly checking out what interesting offerings were playing in the IFI or the Lighthouse Cinema on any given week from indie darlings to documentaries to foreign language films. I miss the occasions in which I would choose one at random, knowing little about it, and would just dive in feet first. I miss treating myself to a sprawled out movie-going experience in the plush surroundings of the Stella. I miss dropping into a recent blockbuster on a whim when I had nothing else going on. I miss going by myself in a hoodie and sweats and toddling home to bed on a Sunday evening to top off a weekend. I miss cinema dates with pals where we would see something emotionally devastating and then recover with a drink and catch-up afterwards. I miss going to catch the movies that everyone was talking about so I could join in. I miss the various film festivals that marked the changing of seasons in Dublin for me. I miss specific curations being available so I didn’t get overwhelmed by choice in the way that one can with all of the endless streaming options. When I think about it now, I realise just how big a part of my life the cinema was.
Unfortunately, all of those things that I so miss are still out of my grasp for now, no matter how I long for them and will likely continue to be so for some time yet to come. However, humans adapt, we always do. And, like so many other things this year, film festivals have gone digital. While it may not quite be the same, it’s a hell of a lot better than nothing, especially as Ireland has been left out a lot in the process of recent releases getting VOD launches. The Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival was one of the last events I attended last year and this year, though it may be remote and a little less exciting because of that, the line-up sure as hell is not. There are a bunch of highly anticipated gems on the bill and many of them are films that I have been eyeing up anxiously, awaiting those damned Irish VOD releases. With the festival opening this week, I thought it might be a good idea to mention some of the movies I’ll be catching and that I think are worth seeing through the VMDIFF online screenings, particularly as additional tickets for some of the most in-demand and sold-out movies are going on sale tomorrow (the 3rd of March) at 1pm. Plus, there are a bunch of other events and talks on the schedule that are a must for cinephiles, such as an interview with iconic British director Steve McQueen.
I heard this film described as joyous and a warm hug and I just need that in my life. I’m sure you do to. Telling the story of a South Korean family who move to rural Arkansas to pursue the elusive American dream in the 1980s, this movie is based on the childhood of writer and director Lee Isaac Chung and boasts an amazing cast featuring Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, and the unbelievably lovable and veteran powerhouse that is Youn Yuh-jung. Named one of the ten best films of 2020 by the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review and having won the Golden Globe Award for the Best Foreign Language Film (controversially, as many said it should not have fallen into the Foreign Language category), this is one of the most buzzed about movies showing in the festival and is, therefore, currently sold out but you might be able to snag an extra ticket tomorrow if you get in there fast!
Placed on a list of films I wanted to see after stumbling across the trailer randomly, Cowboys comes from writer/director Anna Kerrigan and follows Troy (Steve Zahn) and his young trans son (played by Sasha Knight who is actually a trans actor and ridiculously well-spoken for a ten-year-old) as they escape into the wild together after the boy’s mother rejects his identity. Described as a modern western and set in the stunning landscape of Montana, the visuals, interesting twist on a traditionally hyper-macho genre, and ever-increasing importance of the issue at heart all had me sold immediately and excited to see this one.
Boys From County Hell
Irish horror has been having a bit of a moment in recent years and particularly Irish horror-comedies so I picked up a pass to this film without second thought (also currently sold-out but, again, you may be able to snag tickets tomorrow!) Coming from director Chris Baugh, the movie follows a group of rowdy pals in the supposedly haunted town of Six Mile Hill who go from scaring tourists to running for their lives. They’re promising gore and laughs so I’m hoping for a good deal of both.
There are, of course, lots of incredible films on the bill so, if you miss the cinema as much as me, be sure to check out their schedule of screenings and other events and host your own little film festival at home while we all look forward to being able to enjoy movies in a darkened theatre with some buttery cinema popcorn IRL sometime soon…